Every film Sofia Coppola has directed is both romantic in a perverse way, and touchingly innocent. THE BLING RING zeroes in on our fascination with celebrity culture, but not of the “great” performers, but rather our adoration of the accessories/accoutrements that sheer beauty and glamour bestows on the “chosen” that grace the covers of tabloids and supermarket/ convenience store displays. I would call this phenomenon - “Stash/Splash” with its spill over marketing of an intoxicating lifestyle to those who covet a superficial “look” and sleek values.
Marc (Israel Broussard), an average looking teen is the new “kid” attending his first day of High School in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood. We discover early on that Marc has had a bit of a rocky educational history in his former high schools – nothing too serious – but Coppola is letting us know that this young man does not toe the “straight and narrow.” Like a wildcat sniffing a lamb, Rebecca, a lovely looking, predatory fellow student (an excellent performance by Katie Chang) immediately discerns a kindred spirit and the two become “best friends” each voraciously enthralled with celeb lore and the “bling” that blankets their lives.
Rebecca, the ringleader, who is fearless, desires what these “icons” have, and is determined to get what she wants, introducing Marc, her willingly passive partner into an exciting, seemingly benign world of “trespass.” He works the computer and finds out when the targets/marks are out of town on promotional jaunts, and then they both break into these fabulous homes complete with rooms (not just closets) of over the top designer clothes, jewelry, shoes, etc. Both intruders assume that what they steal would never be missed. Soon we are introduced to a gang of girlfriends who rapaciously join the night invasions, each acting like ravaging foragers.
To complete the picture, we are given a glimpse into the family life of one of the members of the club whose name is Niki, played by Emma Watson the British actress known for her part as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series, doing a great impersonation of “Valley” girl patois. She lives with her new-age mother (Leslie Mann) and an “adopted” friend and fellow conspirator Sam (Taissa Farmiga); both girls are home-schooled and straddle innocence and marauding hunger for feverish experience. In one telling “teaching lesson” Niki’s mother projects an image of Angelina Jolie on the screen and asks the girls what they admire about her. They respond to her clothes, thinness, jewels, and most importantly her “hot” husband Brad Pitt.
THE BLING RING is more than just satire; it envelops us with a biting halo of truth pointing at America’s obsession with obtaining money effortlessly, and what such currency can purchase. I also kept thinking that Sofia Coppola is showing the flip side of the rap culture’s adulation and emulation of “bling” as evidenced by white upper class privileged youths. Except once caught the sentencing for transgressions are a whole lot “lighter” for one social class than another. Here Money talks.