Grade: B+

Directed by Sofia Coppola
Starring: Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Leslie Mann

Sofia Coppola trades in her signature auteur directing for designer clothes, hip-hop and EDM beats, and youthful inhibitions in her new film The Bling Ring

Starring Emma Watson, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, and Leslie Mann, The Bling Ring follows the real life story of the group of teens who ransacked celebrity homes in the Hollywood hills for weeks before being caught. After amassing an incredible $3 million worth of goods from the likes of Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson, Audrina Patridge, Orlando Bloom, and finally Lindsay Lohan.

The film would be a perfect double feature with this spring's Spring Breakers. The stars of the movie are almost laughable in how naive they are, thinking they won't get caught and that life is nothing more than a game and bottle of vodka. The teens themselves lend the information early on about how they are rich, but unmotivated, ending up at a "drop out" school full of kids who couldn't make it in their normal public schools. The two stand out characters are Rebecca (Chang) and Marc (Broussard). As the ring leader, Rebecca softly bullies her friends into going one more time, with the promise of riches and riches, plus plenty of fun. Marc is hungry for relationship and quickly finds Rebecca as his best friend, meaning he'll allow her to walk all over him, bad influence and all. Watson's Nicki is based on the most "famous" of the real burglar group. Her unbelievably warped attitude about everything is thanks to her mom (Mann), an adult so caught up in her own proudness that she's oblivious to what's really going on around her (think the mom from Mean Girls, but in real life). The warped attitude is the biggest draw to these people. They are so hungry for fame and fortune that they're blind to the reality around them. The fact that these people earned somewhat of a celebrity of their own also speaks to the culture we live in.

This and Spring Breakers can easily become films that look to glorify the actions contained, but to think that is to miss the point. Coppola, whose past work includes Lost in Translation (for which she won an Oscar), The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette, and Somewhere, is great at picking up interesting pieces of life and making beautiful commentaries on them. While some of the beauty found in her previous work is missing here, the tabloid-esque formula fits the topic perfectly. Plus, she gathers some great, brief cameos by the likes of Kirsten Dunst, Gavin Rossdale, and Hilton herself.

The actors pretty much fill the shoes of these kids like a new pair of Louboutins. Watson again astounds in an American role like she did in last year's The Perks of Being a Wallflower, completely losing her British accent. If you watch interviews with the real burglar, you'll find Watson clearly did her homework. Chang is a force to watch. Everything about her performance was commanding and purposeful. She easily has the meatiest role. Broussard comes in a close second. It's clear he's new to this game, but he allows himself to go all in.

It's hard to praise a film that gives the upper hand, in a way, to people who don't deserve it. That's part of the tongue-in-cheek aspect, though. While it seems these are the new Paris Hilton's and Kim Kardashian's of tomorrow, they're in fact the butt of their own joke. Odd though, thanks to our American culture, I did find myself a little jealous from time to time of their haul and the strange fun they seemed to be having. I think we forget, sometimes, that the tabloid life might not really be the best.

The Bling Ring is a smart comedy/drama that is a refreshing time at the movies in the midst of all of the popcorn blockbusters.

Rating: R
Runtime: 90 minutes 

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