Here’s what happens in The Bling Ring: A group of over-privileged, bratty Los Angeles teenagers breaks into the homes of celebrities and steals valuables. The teens assume the celebrities’ identities for a moment — hiding their own insecurities and inadequacies by burgling the sprawling homes and obscenely oversized closets. Then they are caught and sent to jail. End of movie.
Writer-director Sofia Coppola clearly wants her film to mean more than a simple exercise in indulgence and misguided priorities.
She might mean to teach us lessons about false values, or about our society’s destructive obsession with celebrity, or with the dangers of louche parenting. But what transpires on screen simply becomes a repetitive replay of the sensationalistic, with little relevance or engagement.
Coppola bases her screenplay mostly on a nonfiction Vanity Fair article by Nancy Jo Sales about a real-life band of teen thieves who plundered the rich and famous to lift their designer clothes, gems and shoes and then uploaded video proof of their break-ins on the Internet.
The events, which led to a 2011 Lifetime TV movie of the same name, remain unexceptional, as do the involved teens. As such, Coppola confronts a difficult task in asking an audience to become involved with this group of unlikable, arrogant teens bent on their own destruction.
Perhaps their inevitable fall aims to make viewers feel superior to these teens (one of whom was the star of a reality television show called Pretty Wild). Instead, the dramatization becomes tedious and offers no opportunities for redemption for anyone — viewers or participants.
Emma Watson, Claire Julien and Taissa Farmiga play pretty but bored girls Nicki, Chloe and Sam. The trio joins Rebecca (Katie Chang) and new boy in school Marc (Israel Broussard) to make up the larcenous bunch.
The young actors adequately perform their tasks of reveling in their enjoyment of breaking into the homes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson and others. Leslie Mann, as Laurie, mother and guardian to Nicki and Sam, embarrassingly overplays her part as an empty-headed role model with New Age pseudo-philosophies.
In the interim, Coppola provides little perspective of the other side: the police who watch the surveillance videos and are compiling extensive dossiers of the crimes, all aided by the teens’ Facebook posts. She creates no creeping tension. Coppola simply adds similar sequences one on top of another until — poof! — they are caught and we’re all supposed to learn from the mistakes.
Here’s hoping someone has.
The Bling Ring
Rated R, 87 minutes.