'The Bling Ring': Teen burglars of the stars

Emma Watson stars in Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring."

Miu Miu frocks, Alexander McQueen sunglasses, Louboutin pumps, Rolex watches. . . .

"Let's go shopping!" squeals Rebecca (Katie Chang), the high-school mastermind behind one of the more air-headed burglary operations in the annals of crime, a hoodied clique of teens who, a few years back, roamed the Hollywood Hills breaking and entering a TMZ hit list of celebrity homes.

The Bling Ring is Sofia Coppola's energetic, elegant, and entertaining take on this real-life story - a comedy, of sorts, if what it says about our obsession with the famous and the frivolous weren't so totally depressing.

Before they were nabbed (not a spoiler - the film begins with post-arrest soliloquies) - this crew from Calabasas, a high-end San Fernando Valley precinct, would troll the gossip blogs, find out who was out of town, Google the addresses, and make for the driveways of Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan, Audrina Patridge, and the like. The alarm systems were never on. Doors were often unlocked.

It was almost as if they were dropping in on friends - the gang knew what these stars ate, the cars they drove, all the Us Weekly vitals. They would leave with armloads of couture and lingerie, jewelry and shoes, and rolls of cash. And then post pics of themselves with their loot on social media.

Coppola has already shown her fascination with, and a certain inside understanding of, how the rich and renowned live. In Lost in Translation, a lonely middle-aged movie star (Bill Murray) holes up in Tokyo to shoot a TV commercial. In Somewhere, a newly minted movie star (Stephen Dorff) tries to balance a blotto way of life with the responsibilities of being a dad. Coppola's Marie Antoinette is a meditation on celebrity excess, too: Marie's the 18th-century Versailles version of Paris Hilton. (Hilton's house is hit, then re-hit several times again, in The Bling Ring, as it was by the real burglars.)

In The Bling Ring, though, Coppola flips things inside out: instead of seeing how the other half live, we get a bunch of smartphone-slinging adolescents who take their star-stalking seriously. How better to vicariously experience the lifestyles of reality TV's A-listers than by rummaging through their bedrooms, and bedroom-sized closets? And take a few souvenirs while they're at it.

Along with Chang, whose Rebecca is utterly blasé about this B&E business, The Bling Ring's principals include Nicki (a convincingly So-Cal Emma Watson); the catty Chloe (Claire Julien), Sam (Taissa Farmiga, younger sister of Vera), and Marc (Israel Broussard), a newcomer to Indian Hills High who finds a soul mate in Rebecca. That is, if soul mates can be defined by a shared passion for kitten heels.

With the exception of Nicki's mom (a very funny Leslie Mann), who dispenses self-help koans and Adderall with equal attentiveness, parental figures hardly exist. It's as if these kids, old enough to drive but not to drink (don't let that stop them), exist in their own private realm. Which they do.

And then the private realm becomes very public - video surveillance clips, search warrants, legal proceedings, interviews with TV news and magazine reporters. Although the names in Coppola's movie have been changed (to protect the inane?), the bling ring of The Bling Ring has already gotten way more than its 15 minutes of Warhol-ian fame.


The Bling Ring *** (out of four stars)

Directed by Sofia Coppola. With Katie Chang, Emma Watson, Israel Broussard, Claire Julien, and Leslie Mann. Distributed by A24.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 mins.

Parent's guide: R (profanity, drugs, alcohol, adult themes)

Playing at: area theaters

Contact Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Steven_Rea. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.inquirer.com/onmovies.   

The Bling Ring

Directed by Sofia Coppola. With Israel Broussard, Claire Julien, Emma Watson, Gavin Rossdale, Katie Chang, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann, Georgia Rock. Distributed by A24 Films.

Running time: 1 hours, 30 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references).