Movie Review: 'The Bling Ring' is a study in greed

For the News-DemocratJune 22, 2013 

What It's About

Things. Shiny expensive things --- and the fame-hungry people with high-end tastes who worship the privileged people who perpetuate the empty and depraved celebrity culture.

The narcissism is rampant, the greed is ugly and the superficial personalities incredulous in "The Bling Ring." Based on the true story of bored teenagers, obsessed with celebrities and couture, who burglarized the Hollywood Hills' homes of the rich and famous in 2008-2009.

Because of their increasingly reckless behavior, security cameras they are oblivious to, bragging and 'selfies' (cell phone photos) posted on Facebook displaying their coveted items, they are eventually arrested. But not before stealing more than $3 million in jewels, clothing, shoes, cash and other items from the likes of Paris Hilton, Megan Fox, Rachel Bilson and Orlando Bloom.

Their amoral behavior is shocking and their values (or lack of) pathetic. They crave the limelight as much as the designer stilettos and handbags in Lindsay Lohan's home. Few parents are around, and when they are, they are clueless.

Performances

Emma Watson ("Harry Potter" series) elevates shallowness to a new level, and she's terrific as Nikki, although you desperately want to muzzle her vapid Valley Girl speak.

Leslie Mann is strong as a ditzy Mom who home-schools her children on the principles of 'The Secret" and who pushes them into show biz. Apparently, this family was to be the subject of an E! Entertainment Network reality show, but it was shut down when the daughter Alexis, named Nikki here, was arrested. NBC's "Dateline" will have a program about it Friday night.

Israel Broussard is also memorable as Marc, the gay gals' pal who has a knack for styling and gains access to the celebrity addresses and information through his computer. He's the only character who manages to elicit some sympathy because he admits his guilt right away, doesn't try to lie and shirk responsibility, unlike the girls.

What Works

What rich source material! A Vanity Fair article, "The Suspect Wore Louboutins" by Nancy De Sales is the starting point, and grounds the film.

Director Sofia Coppola confidently presents the material, all to the beat of a blaring hip-hop soundtrack. She intensely focuses on the empty souls on display.

What Doesn't Work

Because of the subject matter, it's impossible to like any of these awful people. It becomes increasingly hard to watch scene after scene of brats pilfering and partying -- not only because it becomes repetitive but is just so reprehensible. But there's not much you can do about these selfish, self-absorbed fame-mongers and their misguided priorities -- that's the point of it all.

Rather ironic, isn't it, that one of the victims, Paris Hilton, appears in the movie and allowed the filmmakers access to her opulent mansion crammed with the finer things in life, pillows with her photo likeness on them, a pet monkey and a disco room.

3 stars out of 4

Director: Sofia Coppola

Starring: Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann, Gavin Rossdale

Rated: R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references

Length: 1:30

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