Based on an article which appeared in Vanity Fair, entitled ‘The Suspect Wore Louboutins’(aha!), The Bling Ring centres on new-kid Marc as he distracts himself from hostile Californian schools by joining wannabe fashionista Rebecca’s criminal lifestyle. Before Marc and Rebecca have so much as traded favourite Iggy Azalea songs, they are nicking handbags out of unlocked cars and this soon spirals into full-on property burglarisation. It would appear that the residents of LA are so concerned about the baggage allowance for their Caribbean holiday that they forget to lock the sliding doors, inviting Marc and Rebecca to cotch in their sterile living rooms (and steal a few Benjamins in the process).
But Californian holidaymakers are small fry, and we know that things will get worse through a series of Social Network-style flash forwards which show the gang talking to their lawyers. The duo, and their wild-child buddy Chloe, have grand aspirations to be like their idols: Lindsay Lohan and Heidi Montag. Rebecca wants to go to the same fashion school as the girls from The Hills, while Marc wants a ‘lifestyle brand’, whatever that is. The gang are constantly attached to an electronic device like Real Estate Barbie, looking up TMZ to discuss the latest celebrity DUI with pride, or to take pouting selfies. One day, this perpetual information drip spawns an idea. With ludicrous ease, Marc finds out where Paris Hilton lives, and that she is hosting a party in Vegas. And sure enough, Paris leaves her keys under the mat. D’oh. If you thought Gatsby’s house was decadent, wait until you see Chez Hilton. The abode is a shrine to Paris herself, her dead eyes staring back at you from photos and cushions. Amazed with the ease of their feat, Marc and Rebecca steal some clothes, lots of cash and some compromising Polaroids, but thankfully draw the line at Peter Pan the Chihuahua.
What follows could have been a repetitive crime spree, but Coppola ensures that every burglarisation is different. The raid on Orlando Bloom’s mansion is aided by CCTV footage, while Audrina Patridge’s house is shown in a single, exterior shot as Marc and Rebecca scurry around inside. They are in and out in about a minute, and while we see their deeds, we can only hear the sounds of sirens and barking dogs in the sprawling city beyond. On a second trip to Hilton Manor, one of the gang notes that she ‘has so much stuff’. Indeed, in such a vast environment of ‘stuff’, who is going to miss a couple of handbags and a necklace, even if they are worth thousands?
Soon, home-schooled models Nicki (Emma Watson! Emma Watson is doing a film! Eek!) and Sam are embroiled in the crimes. Watson’s character is a curious one, but only because we find out more about her than anyone else. She is taught by her new-age mother (Leslie Mann) about role models and other general life lessons, but you get the feeling that Nicki doesn’t need to learn anything. She is already savvy about managers and go-sees, and can spout a loud of shit about ‘spiritual journeys’ at the drop of a hat, while her mother nods along unknowingly, scared to interrupt the monster she has created. Nicki talks vaguely of being a world leader, but she would be better suited to Miss World.
It is on Nicki and Sam’s first (and only) burglarisation that Coppola turns on the dark. Megan Fox is known for being a little bit odd, a kind of Angelina Lite, but who’d have thunk that she keeps a gun under her bed? Here the hedonistic dance soundtrack seems light-years away, and is replaced by pulsating white noise, creating a disorientating, dreamy atmosphere in which anything could happen. Weapons and high yoots are no mix, and you constantly feel that the teenagers are going to hit heights of crime not even experienced by Li-Lo.
The idolised celebs are hardly angels, with a string of sex tapes and offenses to their names. Following them, there is a sense that the gang are not particularly bothered how their sought-after fame is achieved. Indeed, part of the reason that the group are eventually caught is because they cannot stop drunkenly boasting about their exploits at parties. It is as if they are inviting publicity, and as evidence from the burglarisation emerges, Marc and Nicki become the subject of news, photographers, and interviews, just like their favourite ‘stars’. This is where the lines between fame and infamy and excellently blurred. This point is not subtly made, with a slow-motion sequence of Lohan walking to court, hounded by paparazzi, emphasising the similarities between mug shots and fashion shoots.
I might have been inclined to end with this trippy footage, but instead Coppola decides to wrap up in a more linear fashion, showing the results of the court case and a shot of Marc looking empty in an orange jumpsuit that is a world away from the pink high heels he nicked from Paris Hilton. This is, however, not the best visual contrast between La La Land and the rest of the world. When the LAPD eventually turn up at Nicki’s door, her mother’s preened Yorkshire terrier is yapping away and must be restrained before the police can enter. Almost immediately after the bitch is picked up, two burly, silent German Shepherds enter to inspect the house. It’s a brilliant gag, contrasting the naivety of the Pretty Young Things with the consequences of the ‘real’ world.
While the reality hits home for Marc, the same might not be said Nicki, who we see giving an interview after doing thirty days in prison (something she has in common with Ms. Hilton). The interviewer is uninterested in Nicki’s plight and instead asks about what it was like to share a cell block with Lindsay Lohan. Nicki wanted to be a leader, but she is, even in her own interview, a follower of celebrity, giving details about Li-Lo’s crying and hair extensions. Realising that she is losing the chance to lead, the savviest of the bunch plugs her own website, and it is here that we leave her. Celebrity is clearly a dog-eat-dog cult, and in her closing bit of self-promotion Nicki shows that the Yorkie will not be silenced that easily.