'The Bling Ring': Based on Actual Events

Emma Watson, Israel Broussard, and Katie Chang star in The Bling Ring.

Rated R

The Bling Ring is a new film based on real-life events written, produced, and directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides). Based off of a now well-known Vanity Fair article titled "The Suspect Wore Louboutins" by Nancy Jo Sales, The Bling Ring highlights the illegal escapades of a group of teenage burglars who targeted the homes of famous celebrities. While the actual events surrounding the group of teens are interesting, the portrayal of these events on the big-screen is less so. Coppola's film has too many starts and stops; too many interruptions in narration. It feels less like a film depicting actual events and more like a documentary that may or may not be getting all the facts straight.

At the center of the group of celebrity-obsessed California teenagers who call themselves The Bling Ring are Rebecca Ahn and Marc Hall (Katie Chang of A Birder's Guide to Everything and Israel Broussard of The Chaperone and Flipped, respectively). Rebecca and Marc meet and become quick friends at the alternative high school they both attend, bonding over their shared obsession with fashion, style, and celebrities. They progress quickly from hanging out doing drugs together to burglarizing friends' homes and then to keeping track of celebrities' whereabouts in order to break into their homes and steal from them. In real life, the list of celebrities who were targeted by the group includes Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, Miranda Kerr, and Lindsay Lohan, and these are some of the same celebrities' homes that are represented as targets in the film, with footage even having been shot in Paris Hilton's actual home.

Unable to keep their crime sprees to themselves, Rebecca and Marc involve their friends Chloe, Nicki, and Sam (Claire Julien of The Dark Knight Rises, Emma Watson of the Harry Potter film series and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Taissa Farmiga of Higher Ground and TV's American Horror Story). In addition, word of their break-ins spreads quickly among their peers as members of the group show off their stolen goods at parties and on social media websites. The group never uses force to break in to any of the homes; they instead enter through unlocked doors or by uncovering hidden house keys. Once inside, the teens steal only enough at first to be able to go undetected, but they eventually accumulate goods and cash valued at more than a million dollars. All of this happens in the film as it did in real life, over a relatively short period of time in 2008 and 2009. Eventually authorities use video surveillance footage from some of the burglarized homes in order to learn the identities of the group members and place charges against them.

Along with a couple of others who help the teens sell some of their stolen goods, Rebecca, Marc, Chloe, and Nicki are arrested and sentenced to jail time. Rebecca is labeled the ringleader of the group and receives the longest prison sentence, while the rest serve relatively short sentences. During interviews that occur after the arrests, most members of the group express little remorse, indicating that the celebrities targeted should view it as flattery since it was their admirable style that drew the group to their homes in the first place.

The names of the teens in the group have been changed for the film, but the true identities of the teens are public knowledge. They are made to look like kids having the time of their lives during the duration of their crimes, but they each had some very obvious issues, including, of course, their unhealthy obsession with celebrities and material possessions and their disregard for laws. Overall, The Bling Ring feels like little more than a disjointed look at some sadly messed-up teenagers.

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