From all those designer dresses and shoes, to her perfumes, to the sparkly jewelry, to multiple pieces of artwork and accessories created with her likeness, to bags, to dogs, to a ton of money, Ms. Hilton lives a life of fabulous excess.
We know this because, of course, Paris has never tried to hide her wealth. And we know it because between October 2008 and August 2009, a group of California teenagers broke into her house and took a bunch of it. Actually, they did it multiple times.
And it wasn’t just Paris. Other actors, actresses, and socialites — including Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, Audrina Patridge, Lindsay Lohan, and Megan Fox — were robbery victims too.
But, because there’s no such thing as embarrassment or bad press when you’re as “hot” as Paris Hilton, she let Coppola film a bunch of scenes in the same house where she was robbed. Paris even has a small cameo in the film.
So, yeah, we can see that even though these kids made off with about $3 million in cash and property — most of it from Paris — she has no hard feelings.
How nice of her.
“The lifestyle that everybody kind of wants”
Anyway … In Coppola’s film, the names have been changed, but the story’s basically the same: Rebecca (Katie Chang), Mark (Israel Broussard), and their friends (played by Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien, and Emma Watson) are obsessed with celebrities, and the entire culture of being a celebrity. It’s “the lifestyle that everybody kind of wants,” Mark says.
One night they decide to see if they can’t break into Paris’ house. It’s surprisingly easy — TMZ tells them where she is, the address is a quick Google search away, and there’s no pesky alarm to rat them out.
Thrill realized, they broaden their list of houses, but keep returning to Paris’, where they hang in her private nightclub room, try on her clothes, and live the life. As time goes on, they basically tempt fate, sharing pics of their exploits and bounty on social media, bragging about their adventures, and practically asking to get caught so they can ride the coattails of tabloid notoriety.
Yes, like Spring Breakers earlier this year, The Bling Ring is intended to be a movie about today, and about how teens go to extreme lengths to be part of the celebrity world. But it’s not as sharp a social satire as it wants to be.
As she’s done in films like Marie Antoinette, Coppola fetishizes celebrity and social status, letting her camera linger over all the trappings of fame — the Louboutin shoes, the Alexander McQueen sunglasses, Rolex watches, etc. She stays detached, though, never letting us get close enough to feel a part of the clique (or the action).
Not that we’d want to. These kids are basically all shallow and empty-headed — just as much as the people they idolize are. They take themselves and their celebrity heroes so seriously, and Coppola does too, so she doesn’t make the act of breaking into these homes as much fun as it should be for us. It’s not that the kids are doing it for malevolent purposes, and they may be enjoying themselves, but Coppola never really taps into the bizarro Robin Hood–ness of the whole thing, where the kids are taking from the rich, but keeping the goods for themselves.
Another reason why the robberies don’t have the necessary spark? They’re too easily accomplished. Car doors are just unlocked, Paris leaves keys to the house under her front-door mat, and few of the other houses have as much as a home security system or an alarm. So there’s no suspense. It’s almost as if these celebs are just asking for people to come in and take their stuff.
Not that the film is without style. There’s one scene, where the kids break into Patridge’s house, that Coppola shoots from a distance, in a sustained single take, letting us watch Rebecca and Mark freely run through the house, open and close doors, leave the lights on, grab what they want, and get out without anyone seeing. It’s the only one of the robberies that’s interesting to watch.
And she uses a soundtrack that includes Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids” (natch), M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls,” and “Crown on the Ground” by Sleigh Bells to amp up the picture at times and put a fine point on the commentary (“Super rich kids with nothing but fake friends”).
All hail Emma Watson
Which brings us to Watson, who as Nicki spends most of the film just beneath the surface, delivering a good line or two, but acting kind of like a shark waiting for the right time to attack. When the kids get arrested, that’s when she really steps up and, yes, steals the whole movie.
Nicki (who is based on Alexis Neiers, who negotiated her own E! reality show, Pretty Wild, before she was arrested for the burglaries) is not merely a celeb-obsessed teen. She doesn’t just want to be famous, she knows it’s her purpose in life. “I want to lead a country one day, for all I know,” she explains, chalking up her arrest to “bad choices” and saying it’s a “learning lesson.”
Nicki’s been raised by an equally superficial mother (Leslie Mann), who homeschools Nicki with a curriculum based on The Secret, and in the absolutely hysterical scene where mom and daughter are being interviewed for the Vanity Fair article, we see the effect that kind of entitlement has: Nicki is nothing short of fierce. She will give the answers, mom. You just step off.
Watson’s is such a great over-the-top bitchy comic performance that it makes the movie worth seeing. (It’s a terrific encore after her impressive work in last year’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower.)
If The Bling Ring had that wicked sense of humor throughout the film, it might have been more of a compelling film to watch. Instead, while it has its moments, this film just isn’t as insightful or engaging as it should be. Even the kids it’s about would probably be unimpressed.
Paris Hilton, on the other hand, will probably love it.
This review originally appeared on Martin’s Musings.
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