Sofia Coppola’s teenaged concoction dealing with the infamous Bling Ring robberies that took place in Calabasas, California is a candy-coloured, ridiculous mixture of young dumbass-ery mixed with high stakes crime. Its surrealism even extends to a Paris Hilton cameo. As camera lights flash, mouse clicks fill ears, and dreams of friendship fueled by adrenaline rushes come through the drip and straight into the vein, the film’s non-conformity in how it ties together all its disasters appeals to the sinner in me. Is it about our obsession with fame? Is it about juvenile delinquency? Is it about the desperate need for companionship that will outdo common sense? It’s all of it, and more.
“What did Lindsey say?”
The delight of the story is in the unlikely factors of how it all happened. The crimes are fascinating because of the way they worked—and they worked because they were unfathomable. Who stops to do an extra security check in a rich neighbourhood? Come on now, what are the chances a group of financially stable teens will simply walk into your house, chill on your sofa and steal your Gucci sunglasses like they’re in an early 2000s music video? Surely nobody would even attempt such a thing. Well, these materialistic and unlikely thieves did.
It’s remarkable because of how unbelievable it is. If you hadn’t heard the real life story and missed the “based on real events” text, this is exactly the type of film you would trash for being ‘unrealistic’. Because in what world do kids break into someone’s house and get drunk while dancing on the owner’s stripper pole, then crash their car on the way home listening to “Bad Girls” by M.I.A? This one. While a cast member of The Hills‘ house is getting sweeped in a perfect long-take from afar I realised that this was the opposite of any crime movie I’d ever seen. While the Ocean’s franchise hinders on analysis and plans, the robberies here require no more than a Google search in the planning stages.
The Bling Ring is a total product of its time: in the rap music, the fashion and the stars. It was a time where filming yourself miming to songs while wearing shades indoors was the norm. And the ever divisive Sofia Coppola does everything to bring the manic but dreamy aura that insane period had to the screen. As Marc (Israel Broussard) and Rebecca (Katie Chang) walk around in-between their small heists, some frames are so bursting with light that they may as well have halos above them. Angelic beams of white and pink constantly providing a haze. It was the early 2000s; I can’t remember anyone growing up at that time giving the slightest of fucks. Those years aren’t gone enough to be remembered fondly like the 90s, and not modern enough for its quirks to be relatable.
Marc reads out blog articles about famous DUIs, a mother tries to use an Angelina Jolie mood board to inspire her kids and the responses are about the actress’ “hot bod” and Brad Pitt; celebrity clips flash across the screen intermittently. The social commentary is half damnation and half romanticism. It whispers “I dare you” just as quickly as it slaps your hand away for giving into the clickbait. It’s critical of everything but still sympathetic to all. A pop culture centrepiece should be captured as just that, and Coppola clearly takes delight in showing how having the audacity to do something might be all you need to pull it off.
“C’mon, let’s go to Paris’. I wanna rob.”
It’s as shallow as a kiddies’ pool, and that’s the way it should be. Coppola understands that we aren’t trying to penetrate their minds and understand these kids, because what’s the point when we already do? What drives them is ultimately human and simple. But the little touches such as Nicki and Sam’s mother nodding along as her kids spout lies about producers and acting gigs for Axe Body Spray commericals to cover up what they’re really doing make it all the better. The answer as to why this is happening and why these people are the way they are is well laid out for us. And my personal favourite moment of expansion: Chloe (Claire Pfister)’s arrest. A simple wide shot of a kitchen, the father in a business suit, the mother with perfect blonde hair and a hired cleaner in the background. One shot to tell us it was never just about the money.
The Bling Ring reminds me of Spring Breakers in one way: in regards to what it is actually about behind the surface level style and lack of supposed depth. While all the insanity is unfolding everything keeps stepping up a notch and before we know it: chaos. Graduating from weed to cocaine will do that. Slow motion wads of cash, Grey Goose vodka, designer wear, jumping until you can’t breathe in a club. All beautiful distractions to help these kids not think about what the consequences might be. There’s just no time to stop and think, and there’s no genuine enough connections to the adults in their lives to halt anything. As long as their lives resemble a Kanye song there’s bliss and it has to be eternal. There’s such little care that they even brag about their breaking and entering at parties. When you can get away with that, you can get away with anything.
The Bling Ring has a lot to say about our desire to touch the untouchable. And in the end they finally got what they craved, didn’t they? After watching celebrities walk past the paparazzi shouting questions at them, the Bling Ring members got to put on their fancy clothes and their sunglasses and be harassed for answers and photographs—only it was a courtroom they were walking towards.
“I have, like, a good statement to make about this.”
All images courtesy of A24
Hello, I am a Scottish filmmaker who enjoys writing about movies and reading comics! You can follow me on Twitter @_trudiegraham or on Instagram @tru.die