For the sagely interlocutors of Plato’s Republic, the myth of Gyges’ Ring begs a fundamental question: ‘If you had the power to commit crime without consequence, would you? And if so, where does that leave morality?’ For teen thief Nicki Moore (Emma Watson), the answer to those crusty old philosophers is simple: “You’re stressing me out!”
The beauty of Watson’s performance in director Sofia Coppola’s new movie, The Bling Ring is in making Nicki sound more concerned about the damage that such anxiety might cause her skin, rather than her criminal responsibility. Of course, she is actually replying to Marc (Israel Broussard), a fellow member of the Bling Ring, when he expresses concern that their antics have made the evening news.
What is the Bling Ring, you ask? To put it simply, the Bling Ring was the name of a real-life group of fame-obsessed teens that burglarized celebrities’ homes. Together, the teens netted more than three million dollars in high-end clothes, jewelry, shoes, and purses. Following a great deal of media attention (which I suppose is what the group always wanted), the Bling Ring is now the focus of Sofia Coppola’s newest film of the same name, based on a Vanity Fair article (“The Suspects Wore Louboutins” by Nancy Jo Sales) and the real-world events that inspired it.
Coppola’s film follows its teen troupe from their humble beginnings as a Bonnie & Clyde operation casually searching unlocked, street-parked cars. Eventually, the teens’ appetites progress to bigger and more fashionable fish. Using Google Maps and social media, they locate, invade and forage their way through closets and bedrooms belonging to Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Megan Fox, and Rachel Bilson, among others. (You’d be surprised how many celebs leave their windows and door open, or leave their house keys under the doormat.)
The draw of the film will be Emma Watson, who ditches her black Hogwarts robes, (which are, like, so 2001), for a Juicy Couture tracksuit plugged into a pair of brown UGGs! Our sweet, bookish Hermione is all grown up, and yes, she pole-dances. Watson gives her most over-the-top performance yet as Nicki, the ditzy, hair-twirling, selfie-snapping, duck face-loving valley girl who is just too doe-eyed to be true.
Watson is right to play Nicki a little over-the-top and under-the-IQ-line. After all, when the Ring members are finally caught, it’s kind of cute to see how differently they each squirm under the pressure of media attention and criminal guilt. It only gets better to see their respective strategies to weasel out of jail time – and this is where Watson really shines. When Nicki gets to play good-girl for the cameras and interviewers before her day in court, she blames her thievery on “bad choices” and shrugs it off as a “learning lesson to grow and expand as a spiritual human being.” Like a true babe-in-the-woods lost-in-the-commotion, Nicki’s delivery is no less rehearsed and insincere than the onstage Q&A at a Miss America pageant.
But the most interesting character is Marc (Israel Broussard), the lone male of the group, whose conflicted conscience makes him the Henry Hill to this female group of Goodfellas. He starts as the outsider who wants in on the action, only to become a shunned outsider again when he’s forced to sell his friends out to save his neck. Even while the others are stealing, Marc is tense and eager to leave the scene of the crime. After pressing the gang’s ringleader, Rebecca (Katie Chang) to leave before the cops come, he is finally silenced, and told not to be “such a little bitch.” In that moment, Marc seems to know he’s overstepped his boundaries. He also knows that what he’s doing is wrong, and yet it is crucial that he maintains his cool-as-a-cucumber social status because he wants to hold on to what he never had: popularity.
With the exception of some obscure music selections, I would never have known this film was directed by Coppola, which is probably because it is the least languid of all her films. And yet, for its real-world connection to celebrity and excess, The Bling Ring may be the most realized vision of the many themes that Coppola has probed in earlier pictures — unfortunate, because so little actually happens in the film. She tracks the teens’ time stealing, enjoying their spoils, and paying for it in court-appointed reparations, but not much else.
Between the house parties and the slo-mo nightclub scenes, the experiments with cocaine and cops flashing search warrants, I feel like I’ve seen this all before. That’s not to say the story isn’t too laughable to be true. I guess I just wanted more ring for my bling.