The Bling Ring is a mirror (covered in Swarovski crystals of course) held up to a society hyper-focused on fame for fame’s sake, instant gratification, and infinite consumption. In contrast to Sofia Coppola’s earlier decadent, dreamy, and ultra-feminine films surrounding coming-of-age, The Bling Ring provides an uncharacteristically brash tone—that of a millennial teenagehood captivated by iPhones, purse-dogs, private pools, and four-inch little brown Bebe shoes.
The film tells the true story of a group of fame-obsessed Calabasas teens who participate in a series of celebrity burglaries, referred to in the media as “The Bling Ring.” Coppola quickly cuts between the group of high-schoolers during their day-to-day lives, and real paparazzi and red carpet shots of their “victims,” including Paris Hilton, Audrina Patridge, and of course, Lindsay Lohan.
The light Coppola shines on the teens is neither exploitative, sympathetic, nor condemning. For all the pole-dancing in Paris’ VIP room, underage bottle service and drug use at L.A. nightclubs, and the trying-on of stolen party dresses, there’s a refreshing lack of sexualization or objectifying male gaze. And although in no way do these kids ever inspire pity, I never find myself impatiently awaiting their punishment or rooting for their eventual incarceration either.
Coppola crafts a mesmerizing portrait of adolescence dominoing out of control: one moment they’re haphazardly grabbing handbags from unlocked cars, and the next they’re misting Lindsey Lohan’s perfume and trying on Paris Hilton’s shoes (all while taking selfies). All that’s left to do is stare, entranced, as the bass bump of Kanye West and M.I.A. weaves its way through the 90 minute run time.
The Bling Ring might be looked at as a rough departure from Sofia Coppola’s softer works, but I believe beneath the surface it has the same furious adolescent need for self-discovery that her filmography has touched on time and time again—only this time with the harsh immediacy of social media and gaudy consumer culture that makes “I wanna rob!” the new “Let them eat cake.”
Emalie Soderback lives in Seattle, WA and has been working at Scarecrow Video and with the Seattle International Film Festival since 2013. She loves ’90s hangout movies, true crime, female friendship flicks, and horror films. She spends her time writing about her favorite films, listening to podcasts (Shock Waves and Last Podcast on the Left especially), and of course, always watching movies.