Movies: 'The Bling Ring'

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 20, 2013 - 2:26 PM

A young gang of fame-obsessed fashion hounds goes on a Hollywood crime spree.  |  ★★★ out of 4 stars

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Emma Watson stars as the shallow Nicki in “The Bling Ring.”

Photo: Merrick Morton • A24 Films,

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“The Bling Ring” finds biting satire in the true story of a fashionista brat pack so obsessed with the trappings of fame that they went ahead and stole them. Over nine months in 2008, a Hollywood girl gang burglarized celebrities including Rachel Bilson and Megan Fox. They netted $3 million in jewels, Hermès bags and Alexander McQueen sunglasses, and their own measure of tabloid notoriety.

The stranger-than-fiction story is startling, disturbing and hilarious. Emma Watson’s deliciously shallow character, Nicki, launches things in a courthouse interview with a knot of paparazzi. She behaves as if the press is there to do a celebrity profile of her, cloaking her plight in a fog of self-help sound bites, a lack of insight that leaves you agape.

She calls her arrest “a huge learning lesson for me to grow and expand as a spiritual human being.” As she proclaims with regal nonchalance, “I want to lead a country one day, for all I know.”

Writer-director Sofia Coppola makes movies about the discontents of fame, but she’s never been so scathingly funny. “The Bling Ring” is as acid a take on the cult of celebrity as Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy.”

Drawing from depositions and transcripts (there’s no way fictional dialogue could top this stuff), she stutters the story forward like a series of Facebook updates. Leslie Mann (“This Is 40”) is delightfully demented as Nicki’s mom. After dispensing their morning Adderall, she home-schools her three daughters with a course based on the positive-thinking guide “The Secret.” Then she hones their visualization powers by holding up a photo collage of Angelina Jolie and inviting them to discuss what’s amazing about her. “Her husband,” says one.

Between the amphetamines, the claptrap curriculum and the pervasive fixation on celebs, it’s no wonder the girls feel a power rush when invading their idols’ homes. Soon they’re dancing in Paris Hilton’s phantasmagorically lighted Disco Room and helping themselves to her Louboutins.

Coppola shot inside Hilton’s actual residence, a narcissist’s fever dream of framed magazine cover portraits and pillows silk-screened with the heiress’ pouting visage. It does not invite optimistic conclusions about Hilton’s inner life. The kids, who affect a first-name familiarity with the celebs they rob, are attracted to those better known for their fashion sense than for their creative accomplishments. Stars — they’re just like us, only famous!

The typical jewel-thief movie dwells on technique and the Robin Hood fantasy of redistributing wealth from the unworthy to the deserving. Here there’s no need for lock-picking know-how: the L.A. rich are too laid-back to lock their doors. And the spoils go to the spoiled, a gaggle of well-off, entitled airheads who called it “shopping.” When you’re ripping off jailbirds like Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, the moral calculus gets fuzzy.

All parties must come to an end, and when the girls get their moment before the camera, it’s mostly security tapes and police booking photos.

The media-savvy bad girl Nicki never loses a step, though. Even in a post-jail interview, when a TV reporter presses for information about the more marketable Lohan, who spent time in a nearby cell, Nicki keeps bringing the focus back to herself. Her social autism still intact, she invites us in the audience to follow her journey at nickimooreforever.com. You half-admire her invincible egotism. She could lead a country one day, for all I know.

 

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186

★★★ out of 4 stars
  • THE BLING RING ⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

    Rating: R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references.

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