‘Bling Ring’: Steal how the other half lives

Courtesy of A24 Films

A group of teens live the high life by ripping off the stars in “The Bling Ring.”

Last spring, Harmony Korine gave us his artsy/indie take on reckless college partiers Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson in modern society with “Spring Breakers.” Come summer, Seth Rogen and friends mocked celebrities and public image in the pseudo-apocalyptic comedy “This Is the End.”

On Wednesday, Sofia Coppola brings us her attempt at young delinquents in the heartland of Hollywood, “The Bling Ring,” based on the ridiculous true story of a group of teenagers who robbed a number of famous people’s homes out of boredom and privilege. The film is probably the closest to home for Coppola, as she grew up in the neighborhoods of L.A. with her famous movie family. But for actress Emma Watson, it’s the most drastic change she’s made, career-wise, since retiring Hermione Granger, which has raised an eyebrow from a fan or two.

When new kid in school Marc (Israel Broussard) befriends bad girl Rebecca (Katie Chang), the two become attached at the hip. Both enjoy attention and nice material things, but for Rebecca owning them just isn’t enough. She quickly convinces Marc to rob the homes of the rich and famous around L.A. simply because they can. While celebs such as Audrina Patridge and Paris Hilton are out of town, the teens sneak in and steal whatever they like. Soon schoolmates Nicki (Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga) and Chloe (Claire Julien) become part of the thievery, too.

Leslie Mann is perfectly cast as Nicki’s oblivious, “cool” mom, in the same spirit of Amy Poehler’s memorable role in the teen classic “Mean Girls” (2004), and it’s hard to believe this character was based on reality. Broussard and Watson deliver some amusingly performances, while Chang and Julien are decent in their feature film debuts. Like “Spring Breakers,” “The Bling Ring” portrays kids as careless and borderline sociopathic (with a catchy soundtrack to aid their actions). The use of Sleigh Bells, M.I.A. and Deadmau5 fit the tone of the characters’ rebellion and shows us that like Martin Scorsese and Cameron Crowe, Coppola knows how to pick a great soundtrack.

Unlike Korine’s film, Coppola’s direction is much more linear in her usual simplistic, yet attractive style. This is a criticism Coppola’s been given the majority of her career, but by now, viewers have learned to just go with it and enjoy her style or stick to other directors. As in Coppola’s previous films, she has also gotten flak for casting her family and using her husband Thomas Mars’ band Phoenix’s music. Here she casts her cousin Marc and nephew Bailey in minor roles that don’t make them bad or distracting, but more of a cool trivia fact. What’s most surprising and bewildering is that a lot of dialogue is taken straight from the real girls’ reality show “Pretty Wild” from three years ago. The students in “The Bling Ring” and “Spring Breakers” are so awful that one might think a movie would create such people. But in Coppola’s film it’s practically a documentary. “The Bling Ring” follows five shallow, vain and impulsive characters that you can’t stop watching and you’ll want to smack some responsibility into them, too.

mbianco@durangoherald.com. Megan Bianco is a movie reviewer who began contributing reviews for Picket Fence Media, a Southern California print and online local news publisher. She also contributes other entertainment-related features and articles.

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