Mimetic Desire: The Bling Ring

Nick Coccoma in Critics at Large:

ScreenHunter_229 Jul. 01 09.34Sofia Coppola’s first movie, The Virgin Suicides (1999), treated a cadre of teenage sisters and their relationship with the material and moral strictures surrounding them. With The Bling Ring she comes full circle in a way, but the detours she’s taken in the intermediary years bring her to a very different vantage point. Once again, a group of adolescent girls (plus one boy) are the main characters; once again, the effect of materiality and culture is the theme. But her take on this material is informed now by her intervening films, Lost in Translation (2003), Marie Antoinette (2006), and Somewhere (2010). Without those reference points, you could slip and pass off The Bling Ring as a pointless affair. So did the woman next to me in the theater when I saw it, who pronounced it the worst movie she’d ever seen (did she forget the Baz Luhrmann movie playing next door?). But with Coppola’s oeuvre hanging as an illuminating backdrop, The Bling Ring reveals itself as perhaps her most biting, damning portrait of society yet.

The story is so bizarre it can only be true. Over many months in 2008-9, a posse of Los Angeles teens burglarized the mansions of various celebrities and made off with millions of dollars in luxury goods, designer apparel, and cash. Their hijinks led to a Vanity Fair piece, which was the source for Coppola's screenplay. She alters some names but keeps the story intact, introducing us first to Marc, a new student at a school for problem kids. There he falls in with a Korean American girl named Rebecca, who initiates him into the circle of vandalizing Valley girls. What follows can best be described as some strange mix of unconventional high comedy, coming-of-age tale, and quasi-gangster movie, as the cohort pilfer and party their way through Hollywood. The gang want in on the monied entertainment club, and in the process create an exclusive clique of their own.

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