It must be tough, being “average” and “middle class” and living within sniffing distance of L.A.’s rich and beautiful people. The designer clothes, the pricey homes, flashy cars and flashier jewelry must seem just within reach, especially to the young and avaricious.
That’s the temptation of “The Bling Ring,” Sofia Coppola’s scintillating followup to the sleep-inducing “Somewhere.” Coppola’s film, based on a Vanity Fair article about the crimes , the criminals and the world they ran in, is a winking condemnation of a generation of naive, covetous privacy-abandoning teens – and their victims.
If there’s one thing these dizzy L.A. larcenists have a handle on, it’s social media. They don’t wear gloves, don’t rush through the houses they enter and pilfer, don’t realize that the gate camera isn’t the only camera in a multi-million dollar Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom or Lindsay Lohan abode. But they can track their prey online and Facebook photos of their haul.
Becca (Katie Chang) worships Lohan and a few other staples of “Access Hollywood” and “TMZ.” She links up with the new kid in her Calabasas high school, Marc (Israel Broussard), because of his fashion sense. He’s gay. And when she says “Let’s check some cars” after hitting a party, he’s down for anything.
Chloe (Claire Julien) is Becca’s blond bombshell pal, also down for anything. Nicki (Emma Watson) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga) are the rest of this pot-smoking, Kanye- and M.I.A.-listening posse. They discover that the celebrities they long to emulate are as careless about locking their doors as “The Bling Ring,” as the media came to call them, are about hiding their activities.
As with her best films, Coppola is utterly at ease in this milieu and it shows. We’re allowed to giggle at Nicki and Sam’s (all names were changed) insipid self-help home-schooling mom (Leslie Mann, on the nose) and her “teaching,” inspired by “The Secret.”
The homes of the rich are often expensively tacky. The girls all have that mousy/sexy Kardashian growl and a thorough knowledge of high-end brands – Chanel, Rolex, Louboutin, Herve Leger.
All it takes is a text – “Let’s go to Paris” – and they’re off – “shopping” at the Hilton home, or Megan or Lindsey or Audrina’s house.
The performances capture the utter amorality of it all, with Harry Potter’s pal Watson scoring with her dizzy rationalizations of her crimes – “Karma cleanses my journey” – Broussard’s ease at showing Marc’s increasing comfort in his sexuality and Chang’s unflinching turn as the fearless, reckless and unfeeling Becca.
They’re an amusingly hateful bunch, their sole redeeming quality being the real and really gauche people they’re robbing – many of them glimpsed in TV news coverage edited into the fray.
And if a Kardashian and a Hilton can become paragons of style by virtue of a sex tape, why not those who ransack the Hollywood Hills homes of L.A.’s rich and beautiful?
After they’re all out of jail, of course.
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