Set in Los Angeles and based on real events, Sofia Coppola’s latest film follows a group of teenagers who lust after celebrities and designer clothing, and then act on their envy by tracking the A-listers’ whereabouts, breaking into their homes, and stealing millions in luxury possessions. Coppola tracks their rise to social glory, and their inevitable spiral back down, while splicing in stock footage of stars and the characters’ Facebook activity as they post selfie after self-congratulatory selfie, wearing their newfound spoils.
Rebecca, played by rising actor Katie Chang, is the manipulative commander who ropes in the new kid at their “drop out school,” played by John Mayer-baby face actor Israel Broussard. Chang talked to the Dig about Coppola letting them go wild with their characters, going wild in Paris Hilton’s real house,
and how her family broke into uncontrollable laughter upon watching her character snort lines of coke in a car while singing along with Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.”
Regarding her character’s thirst for attention, Chang said, “Rebecca was really obsessed with these women––Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan––and that obsession that she saw in herself, she saw that it made them that much better in her mind. And therefore, she thought that if someone was obsessed with her, and looked up to her, she would be better.” With their group of friends (played by Emma Watson, Taissa Farmiga, and Claire Julien) they go clubbing alongside the wealthy victims of their theft and run their mouths about their exploits, hoping they’ll become even cooler than they already think they are.
The movie aims to critique the fame-obsessed culture and media we’re immersed in, and Chang spoke to the influence of gossip blogs and the like. “I think it’s just too much stimulation in that side of the world, that culture, and it creates this perception that people can be that much [closer] to these celebrities, and potentially be one of them one day,” Chang said.
“I think this film is definitely kind of a reaction against how often we hear about celebrities, and how often fame and the Hollywood lifestyle’s on our minds.”
For those not consumed by this culture, though, the socialite circus can be an amusing one to observe whenever you feel the need to melt a few brain cells. And along those lines, in order to truly understand Emma Watson’s role in this film, it’s advisable––nay, imperative––to watch a little-known, one-season-only, E! reality TV show called Pretty Wild, available on Netflix. It follows real-life convicted felon, Alexis Neiers (whom Watson’s character Nicki resembles), and her family as they deal with the ongoing Bling Ring trial, along with a myriad of hilariously outrageous nonsense. Upon watching, it’s easy to see how Watson nails the role of the sociopathic reptilian teen. In the film, Nicki’s head bobbles around, her eyes glazed and soulless, her lips constantly dribbling air-headed lines like “Your butt looks awesome” and “I wanna rob.” The movie even jacks its “character board” scene from the show, practically word-for-word.
The film’s biggest downfall really isn’t a fault of its own, but rather the relative timing of its release. Trailing so closely on the coattails of Spring Breakers, it’s like the smoke has hardly even dissipated behind the first gang of impulsive, kleptomaniac white girls. Watching the burglaries in The Bling Ring came as déjà vu, albeit less trashy. All that aside, it’s a fabulous ride and thoroughly enticing.
Final kudos, though, goes to the soundtrack (courtesy of Azealia Banks, M.I.A., and Sleigh Bells), for being as fun, obnoxious, and ritzy as it should be.
THE BLING RING | R | 6.21.13