Tracking the lives of celebrities has become its own narrative that lives alongside Hollywood’s big screen fiction. What are the stars wearing on the red carpet? Who’s dating who? What kind of trouble are they in now? Find out on next week’s round of paparazzi snapshots.
And, like any form of entertainment, “gossip” has its degrees of fandom. In The Bling Ring, the latest from writer/director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), five celebrity wannabes slip down the slope from admirers to obsessives, finding themselves pilfering from the likes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Megan Fox without a trace of conscience. Spending every night at the clubs and dreaming of rubbing shoulders with the elite, the high school quintet finds a route to easy money and leaps at the chance. Whenever the website DListed posts that a celebrity is out of town, the crew can Google an address and be rolling in riches in a matter of hours. The mansions are overflowing with jewelry, shoes, and Prada bags — when the “Bling Ring” lifts a few handfuls of it, no one notices. A full-proof plan that instills the teenage criminals with a true “holier than thou” Hollywood attitude.
All the buzz for Bling Ring, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, has been centered on Emma Watson. But her self-absorbed Nicki is only part of the picture — and not the central figure. The ringleader is Rebecca (Katie Chang), an amateur fashionista who dreams of attending the Fashion Institute where “all the Hills girls went.” When she meets new kid Marc (Isreal Broussard) they become instant friends — and partners in crime. Marc has the brains and Rebecca packs the ambition. Before too long, they’re deciding which of Paris Hilton’s Louboutins to take home and recruiting friends to join in on the fun. Chang and Broussard are a natural pair, relative unknowns who talk, walk, and act like actual teenagers. If they weren’t plotting to rip off thousands in material goods, they’d be downright normal (well, “L.A. normal”).
Coppola toys with a pop style informed by glitzy VIP parties, social networking, and top 20 hits, but never using her direction to attack (unlike, say, the biting phantasmagoria of Spring Breakers). She plants herself in the middle of this nightmare world of Instagram selfies and lets her exceptional cast play out the true life story (the movie lifts its facts from a Vanity Fair article chronicling the real 2008 heists). There’s a repetitive nature to Bling Ring, with its countless sequences of the celebrity heists, but the young cast captures the deranged antics with such precision it’s hard to look away. In that way, the film plays like the material its criticizing — an artful “E! True Hollywood Story.”
What’s missing is a satirical edge. Watson’s Nicki comes close as the most boisterous of the bunch. The actress is hysterical in her attempts to soak up every bit of spotlight — even when they’re coming from paparazzi parked outside the courtroom. When convicted of the crimes, Nicki lies in the face of everyone, feeling no remorse and leveraging it for personal fame. It’s disturbing, and imperative to the film’s commentary. The rest of the characters simply drift through Bling Ring, avoiding confrontation that would have given the movie more bite.
Gorgeously shot and sharp in its language, The Bling Ring is another 2013 entry that takes aim at the ridiculousness we’re capable of when “privilege” enters the picture. So follow Emma Watson on Twitter, check out all of her red carpet styles, try to get an autograph if you can. Just watch the edge of the fandom cliff — it’s steep.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches