Anita Casey-Reed
 
 
    
 
Actor Claire Julien poses for photographers during a photo call for the film The Bling Ring at the 2013 international film festival, in Cannes, southern France. (Associated Press)
 
 

How do you make a smart movie about stupid people? That's the challenge writer and director Sofia Coppola took on with "The Bling Ring," a slightly fictionalized account of five Los Angeles teenagers who stole cash and merchandise worth thousands of dollars from the homes of young celebrities.

Let me back up, however. It's not right to call them stupid -- at a certain level it's brilliant for queen bee Rebecca (Katie Chung) and shy new kid Marc (Israel Broussard) to realize that if the media is reporting that Paris Hilton is hosting a party in Las Vegas over the weekend, her LA mansion will be sitting empty. A quick Google search for her address and voilà ... they're off to peruse her massive walk-in closets (the fact that this scene was actually shot in Hilton's home makes it even more surreal) as if it were their personal playground. It's not really about the money, merely mercenary, but about vicariously experiencing what they've seen in the tabloids and on the gossip websites.

They are soon joined by Nicki, Chloe and Sam on their larcenous expeditions to the homes of the rich and famous. Nicki (played by Emma Watson -- a world away from her role as Hermione Granger) is determined to become famous. She's homeschooled by her mother (a hilarious Leslie Mann), whose idea of class work is having the girls do a collage explaining what they admire most about Angelina Jolie. It's interesting that for the majority of the movie, the only adults who interact with the youngsters are this clueless mom and the nightclub owner who provides plenty of drinks while fencing the gang's stolen goods.

"The Bling Ring" jumps back and forth in time, so the suspense is not in the outcome, but rather the motive -- why did these five teenagers bend all of their skill and determination to the pursuit of partying in the right nightclubs, using the right drugs and wearing the right accessories? At first, I thought the movie was too cold and disjoined, it left me adrift.

Now, however, I think the visual and emotional detachment is the key to understanding these kids. They are performing ALL THE TIME. It's not enough lie down on Orlando Bloom's bed or wear Lindsey Lohan's stuff -- if it's not observed and admired, it's like it didn't really happen. That's why they felt compelled to post pictures and discuss their exploits in public. In a town where people become famous with no discernible skills (cough *the entire Kardashian family* cough), this perspective makes perfect sense. "The Bling Ring," which is rated R for language and drug use, will not be for everyone's taste. However, it is beautifully shot and acted, and I think that in about 20 years people will realize it crystallizes our celebrity-obsessed society more than we are willing to admit today.



 
Anita Casey-Reed is a member of the Cinema 100 Film Society, a volunteer for the Dakota Digital Film Festival and co-host of "Reel Retro" on Dakota Media Access. She lives in Bismarck with her husband and two children.