Inspired by actual events that took place between October 2008 through August 2009, Sofia Coppola (Somewhere and Marie Antoinette) wrote and directed The Bling Ring, a story about fame-obsessed teenagers who robbed celebrities’ homes. Coppola’s screenplay is based off of the Vanity Fair article written by Nancy Jo Sales titled, “The Suspect Wore Louboutins.”
Coppola changed the names of the real Bling Ring crew in her screenplay, in hopes to not attract more attention to the real teenage group that robbed the homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom and others. Is that working? My guess is no, since many people outside of Los Angeles didn’t know the story until this film.
The real-life Bling Ring managed to steal over $3 million in clothes, jewelry, guns and money for more than a year before they were caught in 2009. Coppola’s screenplay allows the audience to visualize how the teens started robbing homes and follows their journey until they were arrested. The characters are clearly self-centered, unwise and unlikable, but what Coppola is trying to show here is that the characters are ultimately humans. She isn’t trying to get the audience to like the characters or even sympathize with them, she’s allows us to make our own judgments and dive in to the world of these teenagers.
Marc (Israel Broussard) just recently moved to Calabasas, California. He fell into the wrong crowd before at his old school and his mom hopes he can get a fresh start here. On his first day he meets Rebecca (Katie Chang), who immediately shows him around, gets him to skip class and smoke weed after school. The two become close quickly and as a hobby, begin to surf the web for celebrities’ whereabouts. Marc discovers that Paris Hilton is out of town and finds her address through a quick web search. The two head straight to her mansion and easily find the key under the mat and let themselves in.
Feeling on top of the world, Marc and Becca tell her friend Chloe (Claire Julien) and homeschooled sort-of-sisters Nikki (Emma Watson) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga) about their break-ins. The girls immediately want in and eventually the five LA teens start robbing and spending their stolen cash like crazy.
The Bling Ring is photographed perfectly by Christopher Blauvelt and the late Harris Savides. The film is shot in a way that makes the audience feel they are alongside the wild teens.
There is a moment of pure cinematic magic where the Bling Ring gang is robbing Lindsay Lohan’s home. Coppola focuses in on Rebecca as she takes Lohan’s perfume, sprays it on her neck and tears form in her eyes as if she’s achieved perfection. Rebecca is so obsessed with Lohan, in that moment she is truly happy. Katie Chang is superb and succeeds as the fame obsessed ringleader of the group.
Newcomer Israel Broussard is fantastic as the film’s star, Marc. The screenplay centers on his character, bringing the audience back to his personal story, but it’s the young actor that grounds the film. He’s completely natural, endearing and creates a polarizing character that the audience can both sympathize with and scorn.
Coppola stresses the themes by her unique direction and carefully crafted dialogue, but the soundtrack of The Bling Ring is a huge character in itself. Coppola’s music supervisor Brian Reitzell who crafted and scored the soundtracks for The Virgin Suicides, Lost In Translation and Marie Antoinette assembled an incredible soundtrack, which includes artists Sleigh Bells, Kanye West, M.I.A. and Phoenix. It’s Sleigh Bells’s “Crown on the Ground” (the one played in the trailer) that stands out, but the entire soundtrack perfectly captures the themes of obsession and greed that Coppola wishes to showcase here.
The Bling Ring is a cautionary tale that is a little Mean Girls mixed with this year’s Spring Breakers. Coppola’s excellent direction and the performances by the young actors make it one of the most memorable films of the year.