There may be no more fitting director to dramatise ‘The Bling Ring’ – a group of real-life celebrity-obsessed teens who systematically broke into the homes of the stars they adored – than Sofia Coppola. The daughter of Godfather director Francis Ford, Coppola Junior paints the milieu of pampered California kids and A-list parties with a steady hand and knowing wink. And she’s no stranger to both lost girls (see 1999 directional debut, The Virgin Suicides), nor exploring the fractured notion of celebrity (2010’s Somewhere).
Adapting 2010 Vanity Fair feature ‘The Suspects Wore Louboutins’, Coppola’s screenplay documents how the group stalked celebrity homes with Google Earth, used gossip sites to track when Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom, Paris Hilton and many others were out of town, then zeroed in, making off with more than $3 million (Dhs11 million) worth of designer gear in a ten-month crime spree. There’s an obvious commentary on consumerism and celebrity culture that doesn’t need much exposition, but Coppola can’t help but treat us to plenty of glowing brand fetishism, fast cutting through their stolen booty with the gloss of a fashion ad. But it’s the outrageous excesses found in Hilton’s wardrobes – who put up her own home for shooting – which steal the show.
Despite the cosmetic modernisms – Coppola has a penchant for steadycam, and likes to abuse the slow-mo – it’s amazing how similar the narrative is to one of daddy’s gangster classics. Revolving around the core, innocent romance of Rebecca (Rachel Lee) and Marc (Nick Prugo), the ring start small with unlocked cars and friends’ homes, building up slowly to greater celebrity conquests, before getting cocky, over indulging recklessly, betraying one another and meeting an untimely demise as jailbirds.
In Coppola’s hands the camera feels clinically detached and non-judgemental, and as much as the film factually fascinates for 90 minutes, The Bling Ring’s biggest problem is that the subjects at its core are as weightless and vacuous as the celebrities they fawn over. So perhaps it’s fitting that the closing scenes hint at the real-life aftermath where, like all good movie criminals, the ring become celebrities themselves, ironically obtaining the lifestyle they sought so hard to imitate.