Break-ins to Hollywood homes easily capture headlines and unfortunately get a ton of press. What’s disturbing is how often they can be easily prevented (locking a door helps, as does not keeping the house key underneath the door mat since that is the first place thieves will usually look). Sofia Coppola’s new film The Bling Ring, which she wrote and directed, is based on real-life burglaries of a number of Hollywood homes (belonging to celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Megan Fox, Audrina Patridge, Miranda Kerr, Rachel Bilson, and Orlando Bloom) by a group of fame-obsessed teenagers. It’s surprising that it was so easy for them to gain access, and as I kept watching I had to remind myself that every now and then life is stranger than fiction. Indeed, it’s surprising that celebrities who complain about the lack of privacy in their lives would leave their homes and possessions (most of which are ridiculously expensive) so vulnerable.
Coppola’s film, based on Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins,” isn’t easily accessible for viewers since none of the main characters are really likeable. They steal with no regard to any possible negative consequences; they’re enjoying what they’re doing even though they know it’s wrong. What makes them more despicable is that they’re not even poor; they come from well-off families who don’t have to worry about money. Their lifestyle looks appealing, but it’s just a facade (just like their morals). The film shows how easy it is to get hooked in; their stealing is very much an addictive drug. The most outrageous scenes are easily the Paris Hilton home sequences. The different kinds of rooms are so ridiculous that you have to keep reminding yourself that this is Paris Hilton’s actual house (she gave Coppola permission to shoot there).
One sequence in particular that stood out for me was the Audrina Patridge home sequence. Late at night, Rebecca (Katie Chang) and Marc (Israel Broussard) find an open sliding door and enter Audrina’s house. The windows run from the floor to the ceiling, and everyone can see into every room that has a light on. Over the next few minutes we see Rebecca and Marc go from room to room, taking what they want. This occurs in one continuous shot as the camera is focused on the entire house. Coppola has her camera slowly move in on the house; almost subtle. It’s an eerie shot that puts the audience in the uncomfortable position of being a voyeur who’s watching from far away. I actually would’ve called the police had it not been for the fact that I was watching a movie instead of a live burglary.
Nearly as haunting as the Audrina Patridge home sequence is Emma Watson’s performance as Nicki. Although Watson doesn’t play the ringleader (that would be Chang’s Rebecca), her role is nevertheless a difficult one to pull off. The home-schooled Nicki uses her family background to create a false media image of herself after she’s arrested and maintains her innocence despite the fact that she’s just as guilty as the others (although Rebecca and Marc did commit a lot more burglaries together than the others, which resulted in longer sentences for them). It’s just incredible to watch Nicki try to turn her new notoriety into success, and interestingly enough, she reminded me a lot of Kathleen Turner’s (literally) killer mom from John Waters’ 1994 cult classic Serial Mom (a film also based on real events, and one that would make a fascinating double feature with The Bling Ring).
Sadly, this was the final film that director of photography Harris Savides worked on when he died from brain cancer last October. He had previously collaborated with Coppola on her 2010 film Somewhere, and Christopher Bleauvelt was brought in to replace Savides on The Bling Ring (both are listed in the credits, and the film is also dedicated to Savides). Savides had collaborated with such directors as David Fincher, Noah Baumbach, and Gus Van Sant in the past, and he will surely be missed.