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With: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga, Georgia Rock, Leslie Mann, Carlos Miranda, Gavin Rossdale, Stacy Edwards, G. Mac Brown, Marc Coppola, Janet Song, Annie Fitzgerald
Written by: Sofia Coppola, based on an article by Nancy Jo Sales
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
MPAA Rating: R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references
Running Time: 90
Date: 06/14/2013

The Bling Ring (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Diamonds in the Stuff

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sofia Coppola has earned a spate of detractors by making movies about the privileged. For most people, the privileged are beyond care or concern; they have enough money and/or fame to deal with any problems that may arise in their glamorous lives. Their problems aren't real problems, anyway, just headlines in tabloid newspapers.

However, Coppola understands that the privileged are people, too, and their feelings -- astoundingly -- are much like the feelings that anyone else has. By tapping deeply into these feelings, she has made some of the most profound movies of the past decade (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, Somewhere).

Her new movie The Bling Ring isn't quite as profound, but not because of the privileged characters or because she has stopped caring about them. This movie deliberately aims lower, looking at an anomaly in the system. Coppola probably doesn't understand these characters any more than we do, or anyone else does. But she's genuinely curious about them.

The movie is based on a true story about a group of teens who started stealing expensive items from Hollywood's rich and famous. This did not take any serious planning. A quick internet search revealed when their targets, such as Paris Hilton, were out of town, and where they lived. Trips to their houses showed that these stars often left their doors unlocked, or left keys under the mat.

At first the "ring" consists only of new kid Mark (Israel Broussard), who is shy and uncertain at school, but knows fashion (the movie hints that he is gay, but never discusses it). He befriends Rebecca (Katie Chang), who teaches him that there's great booty to be had by checking for unlocked cars in ritzy neighborhoods.

This escalates to houses, and the pair are soon joined by Nicki (Emma Watson) and Nicki's adopted sister/BFF Sam (Taissa Farmiga), as well as other satellite members of the group. After scoring millions in loot and hitting not only Hilton's and Megan Fox's homes, but also the coup de grace, Lindsay Lohan's house, the teens are caught, arrested, and tried.

Nicki's character, in particular, turns her ordeal into talk show fodder and a blog. Yet none of the teens really seems to understand the moral conundrum here, and it's a doozy. They have stolen, but they have stolen from people who have so much money and so much stuff that they barely even notice anything is gone.

Coppola doesn't really explore these characters in depth, and it's interesting that Watson -- a worldwide star after her role in the Harry Potter movies -- mingles perfectly among her unknown co-stars, never standing out. But Coppola is not particularly interested in exploring them. Their deeds and their reactions are enough to evoke provocation and discussion. Clearly these teens are programmed to think that getting stuff will make them happy, and wanting stuff is their only drive. The means of getting stuff hardly even matters.

I've heard many people unfavorably compare The Bling Ring to Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, and while there are a few things in common between them, they are two different animals. The Bling Ring is observant and non-judgmental, keeping at a slight distance on purpose. Some viewers may go along for the ride and enjoy the thefts and the fun these teens seem to be having, while others will be shocked at their casual and callous behavior. Coppola has deliberately left it so. The movie may not delve as deeply as Coppola's previous movies, but it's still fascinating.

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