Sofia Coppola's latest meditation on wealth and fame seems like a custom fit. Restless teenagers, the lives of the wealthy, celebrity fame, alienation, manufactured identity; all the bespoke materials of the director's signature style. In the opening credits, the camera travels over collections of beautiful objects and spaces that seem primed for a fashion editorial, we take them in to the electric discord of a rollicking Sleigh Bells song, understand that they are to be desired. These are the spoils of modern royalty, what it looks like when Marie Antoinette's boudoir comes complete with shelf after shelf of color-coded Louboutins. In The Bling Ring, Coppola returns to the scenes of true-life crimes perpetrated by a group of well-off teenagers. It's ideal material for her brand of luxury navel-gazing, made all the more compelling by its curious refusal to pass judgment on its club kid thieves.
The Suspects Wore Louboutins" printed in Vanity Fair in March of 2010. In the essay, Sales chronicles the varied accounts of the ex-high schoolers, attempting to piece together the hows, whys, and whats of their exploits. For those not familiar, in 2008 and 2009, the real life Bling Ring used Google Maps and tabloid culture to figure out when celebrities were out of town, find their houses, break in, and "go shopping." Though the dollar amount of what they pulled in was extremely high, by the millionaire standards of their targets, they were relatively small time crooks looking for a thrill, designer shoes, and an upgraded wardrobe. They lived for it, stupidly took pictures of their conquests, partied publicly in their loot, bragged to their friends, posted on Facebook. The Bling Ring robbed Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Megan Fox, and Orlando Bloom, among others, and the Sales piece suggests that their criminal behavior is a sort of extreme example of some desperate need for a new, 21st century kind of inclusion. The evidence is certainly compelling. Sales pulls a quote from conversations with the most media-prevalent of the Ringers, Alexis Neiers, and the line reveals something of her inability to complete a sentence without a name dropped comparison:
"“I’m a firm believer in Karma,” she said, “and I think this situation was attracted into my life because it was supposed to be a huge learning lesson for me to grow and expand as a spiritual human being. I see myself being like an Angelina Jolie,” she said, “but even stronger...""
The true center of the story, though, is the understated push-pull between 'ringleader' Rebecca (Katie Chang) and new kid in town, Marc (Israel Broussard). They are the origin point, and frightening in their nonchalance. Rebecca is depicted as having an almost sociopathic level of composure. She's the girl you follow because she's able to convince you that nothing is wrong, that who walks down high school halls and into Paris Hilton's nightclub room with her head held high. Though far from the most engaging character on screen, her teen glamour is self-evident, and Coppola draws her as a TMZ-obsessive sort of femme fatale, the perfect friend and foil for Marc. At several point in the film, we hear pieces of Marc's interview with Sales in which he reflects on never feeling really attractive. He didn't "look A-list," is the term he uses, and though he's far from a victim of circumstance, it's through Marc and his friendship with Rebecca that Coppola is able to draw out the film's themes.