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The Bling Ring

True crime meets TMZ in this glittering tale.
By Jimmy Dalton
August 17, 2013
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By Jimmy Dalton
August 17, 2013
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Sofia Coppola has made her career by highlighting that being young or famous (and often both) does not protect anyone from existential crisis, no matter how blessed their life may outwardly seem. While previously Coppola has mocked this up in stylised versions of other times and places, her newest feature, The Bling Ring, picks at the designer threads of youth and celebrity in a city very close to her heart: Los Angeles.

As the film opens, a circle of Hollywood teenagers are charged with breaking and entering the homes of TMZ royalty, including Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, and sashaying away with millions of dollars worth of luxury goods, clothing and cash. The seeds of their downfall are found one year earlier, when Marc (Israel Broussard) arrives at his new school with adolescent awkwardness slung over his otherwise fashionable shoulders. It is here that he casually befriends Rebecca (Katie Chang) and her posse of light-fingered, self-absorbed pals (including Emma Watson and Taissa Farmiga).

Though based on actual events (Coppola has changed the names), The Bling Ring does not feel like a true crime film. It is dream-like, with Rebecca and Marc skipping through empty mansions in the hills, tossing diamonds and shoes at one another in an hour-long montage. Details of the characters' lives — and of the real identities behind these characters — are lost in the glitter, and as a result the plot unspools to hit certain moral milestones before the end credits roll. There are no twists and, ultimately, if you want a good story, you should seek out details of the real teenagers (and the Vanity Fair article that inspired the film) online.

The Bling Ring then is a film essay on the experience of desire and lack of privacy in the fame economy. It is hard not to want everything that appears within the 90 minutes of the film, as clothing, money, drugs, young bodies and modernist mansions are showcased beneath a heaving soundtrack of Azealia Banks, Phoenix, M.I.A and Kanye West. By the end, when the teens' spree is brought to a halt, their only unforgivable mistake is the hubris of being so boastful about their crimes in a world of security cameras and social media.

Most people otherwise would happily take a punt were they to know that Paris Hilton kept her keys under the doormat.

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