We’ve spent a lot of time in the hills of Los Angeles. And I’ve known all along that I wanted this movie to nestle in alongside one of our Hills watch sessions. This time, however, we visit under a very different lens: Sofia Coppola’s take on the group of teens that made busting into celebrity homes and shopping a thing. Annemarie, start us off, what did you think of The Bling Ring? How much did you know about these crimes? Are you on board with Sofia yet? Do you want to rob?
AM: I’m not as big of a fan of Sofia Coppola as Brooke is. I felt like The Virgin Suicides was kind of pointless and Marie Antoinette was indulgent, even though I know that was the point of both. However, I loved this movie. Maybe I am just not a fan of Kirsten Dunst in those aforementioned films? (I love her in Little Women and Bring It On, so clearly something about her works for me).
But this isn’t about Ms. Dunst. It’s about Ms. Emma Watson and her robbing pals, Marc, Rebecca and Sam. There’s something quite addictive about celebrity culture. Famous, rich and beautiful people fascinate us. They’re the popular kids in high school who never had to work that hard at much because their talents are shepherded by their immense privilege. It’s a life that few of us can obtain, but damn if we can’t dream about how cool it would be to have Paris Hilton’s closet, the set of $200,000 Rolexes like Orlando Bloom or Audrina’s view. I really hope that Paris used to keep her house key under a doormat with a bedazzled Eiffel Tower keychain because that was amazing.
I had heard of these crimes, I was living in L.A. at the time and in fact had to show up for jury selection in L.A. superior court on one of the many, many days Lindsay Lohan was at the courthouse for various DUIs and her own bouts with thievery. I wasn’t as up on the details, but I knew that celebs were being targeted and the crimes were committed by a bunch of kids. They might have been kids, but they make it look super smart and super easy. It’s non-violent, you can imagine that the first couple times they “went to Paris” that the homeowner herself didn’t even know there’d been a break-in, and they really only got caught because they got greedy (as one does).
Brooke, what made this a Required Viewing entry, besides all the aforementioned reasons I mentioned already (Sofia, Emma and of course the tie-in thematically to The Hills)?
B: You did correctly point out that I adore Sofia and Emma. But even before we watched those first Laguna Beach and Hills episodes and I got obsessed with mashing this movie up with one of those screenings, it was on the list — and you are correct that there are reasons. The first? This is the movie that started my unabashed and well documented love affair with A24. It was one of their earliest releases (the fourth to be exact, but the first after Spring Breakers really launched them on the scene a few months earlier). I was full of anticipation given Sofia and Emma, and I remember gasping audibly at the A24 logo (it was press-only, so my uniformed fangirling was fine), it was just so cool. Something about the aesthetic clicked right away, then I watched this movie that un-ironically explored this phenomenon, and just happened to be one of the earliest occasions I recall people of an age with me being specifically criticized by Gen-Xers as worthless, vapid, millennials.
Up until that point we were still kids — but right around then, we started to get licenses and come of age and then the world had a big damn problem with us. There’s a lot of dialogue in the academic film and so-called “liberal elite” worlds that populate much of media consumption about how important representation is. It’s something that’s always resonated with me, and watching The Bling Ring for the first time, I became aware that not many media organizations were making things that spoke with a voice that felt authentic to me. We didn’t have a John Hughes dynasty, we had classic literature adapted into high school rom-coms and occasional brilliant one-offs like Juno and Mean Girls. My obsession was instant, and when I watched the next A24 release (The Spectacular Now) two months later, all of my hopes that this was a studio to watch, a studio that spoke my language, were confirmed. So, long story short, The Bling Ring holds a special place in my heart as the film that announced the arrival of something that has brought me so much joy.
And there are more reasons still! I’ve sort of alluded to it, but I love the way this movie holds up celebrity culture and asks what impact it has on us. There’s a scene where Marc and Rebecca and Chloe sit on a beach and talk about how they’d love to have their own lifestyle brands. The number of times I had pie-in-the-sky conversations with friends around that age is off the charts — in our most common scenario, I played the loose cannon VP to my even-keeled and universally beloved friend Vignesh in a presidential run. This would be on the heels of him co-opting a Ryan Seacrest-like career and me being the kind of tastemaker that gets to be almost famous by virtue of my work, winning the affections of people like Tina Fey. Now, even though we never bought into that vision, we still refer to each other as running mates and talk about how far behind we are in our plans. So, while I’m not the type to walk around trying to open random cars or decide to go shopping in Paris Hilton’s pad, I am deeply, deeply grateful for a picture that says this element of life is worth examining.
Also, this movie screened less than a month before my first venture to San Diego Comic Con, where I was set to do the Bates Motel press room, and when Taissa Farmiga turned up on screen, her resemblance to Vera nearly broke my brain. That’s irrelevant to Required Viewing, but it is something that pops up in my brain every single time I see her agonizing over the slow bottle service in what I now assume had to be Les Deux. “Everyone goes there,” after all.
Okay, AM. Did you get any of the anthropological vibes I had coming out of this movie? (I’m so glad you ended up loving it, I know you were feeling a bit skeptical). And importantly, what was your favorite piece of loot the gang scored? This could be a favorite in that you also dig it, or in that it was just so absurd you can’t believe the brass it took to swipe it. Actually, just tell me both ways.
AM: I absolutely dug the exploration of Celebrity Culture. As an old Millennial / Gen Y person (I’m on the cusp, but I took a Buzzfeed quiz one time that confirmed that I relate more to the Millennial side of things. There’s a special sort of vibe to the Celeb Culture in L.A. in particular, and the suburbs featured in the film are stunningly accurately depicted. You’re so so close to the glitz and the glam of Hollywood, but not quite. Calabasas and more suburban towns like it can feel deceptive in that “so close yet so far away” feeling. I lived in Pasadena for most of the time I was a Los Angeles resident, and it has somewhat of that same vibe. Alas, I never made it to Les Deux, but when I worked in Hollywood (just stay far, far away from Hollywood Boulevard if you visit L.A., please) we did go out to the occasional club. I wasn’t allowed in with flip-flops one time and we’re pretty sure one of our friends was drugged another time, so I can confirm that they are just as douchy as they appear in The Bling Ring.
Now to the loot. I love how they stole just enough to get away with Paris not even noticing the first few times. That part might not be 100% real, but it makes sense given how much stuff Paris had — and likely how much of it was given to her. How does one keep track of that many pairs of shoes anyway? If they’d only been more careful they could have continued to “go to Paris” for months, maybe years. My favorite score has to be the bright pink heels that Marc swipes and subsequently wears when he’s alone. Paris’ feet are just so big that he’s the only one who can wear her collection of shoes and I love that image of him sitting on his bed, going through his treasures, wearing the vivid heels. It’s both awesome and sad, as it shows me he feels like he can’t be who he really wants to be, and must hide this part of himself.
The box of Rolexes belonging to Orlando Bloom was probably the ballsiest to swipe, as that’s not a collection you can wear or offload on the Venice boardwalk. Getting only $5,000 for them was an absolutely ridiculously low amount of money but when you’re a scared kid, I suppose that’s the only route to take.
Brooke, back to you. What were your favorite loot items? Which house would be closest to your dream Hills home? And it’s hard to identify a favorite character since they all border on unlikeable, but which of our Ring members is your favorite?
B: My favorite absurd loot would have to be the bag of cocaine that Rebecca finds and she and Marc proceed to party really hard with. I love the audacity of that particular theft, because, of course it is going to be missed, but what are the victims going to do? Report it to the cops? I am similarly tickled by Rebecca declaring that she needs new decor for her room at her dad’s house and swiping an area rug and piece of wall art on her way out Orlando’s door. I would have to agree about Marc’s shoes from Paris. There is something very sweet in imagining him wearing those heels while he’s just chilling in his room doing homework. However, I also really enjoy when Sam wears the blue dress she swiped from I don’t even remember where to a family dinner. It’s a damn cute dress and her mom has an eye for fashion that causes her to notice and inquire. But, perhaps because The Secret told her not too probe too much, she very readily accepts the explanation that a teenaged stylist named Marc allowed her to borrow it for a shoot. But of course, it’s a lie easily told and easily accepted, which is one of the fascinating realities of this little world that make this movie such a delight to watch. This really is a stranger than fiction story, and Coppola nails the details.
Of all the many homes that are broken into in this picture, I think I too would want to go to Paris. The decor is ludicrous, of course, but I kind of have to admire how unabashedly indulgent it is. But really, the thing that sells me most on Paris is the sheer volume of hidden rooms. Think how many secret reading nooks I could have if I lived there! Also, panic rooms. I would have several, because with that amount of space I would surely convince myself quite often that a murderer was occupying the space with me utterly undetected. I mean, the place is so large, there’s no way I could reasonably expect to know what’s happening in every room. Hence, so many murderers, everywhere.
Okay, before I answer this last question, I have to point out that your use of Ring member here threw me for a moment. You see, it put me in mind of the Fellowship. And while the argument could be made that circa 2008 Lindsay Lohan would make a good approximation for a Ring Wraith, I think that would be mixing metaphors too much. Anyway, I do have a clear favorite character here. And it probably won’t come as a surprise. I love Sam. She’s an extraordinarily flawed person, but that makes her a wonderful character. I love that she says things like “I want to rob,” and has a billion pieces of clothing, but not one skirt with any kind of length at all. And even more than that, she has the audacity, and yes, gumption to spin this entire escapade as a learning experience and land a TV interview to discuss how scary it was to share a cell block with Lindsay Lohan — who totally got to keep her extensions, by the way.
There is a part of me that’s desperate to hit the Google and find out what the real life members of The Bling Ring are up to today, but there’s a much more significant part of me that never, never wants to know. And if you haul off and do this research and hit me with the knowledge that one of them has become a parent and named their kid an absurd name, I will roll my eyes knowingly before telling you that I do not want that information, thank you very much. IN ALL CAPS, LIKE A REASONABLE PERSON, OF COURSE.
Okay, AM. I have one last question for you. And it’s very important. Will you join me in the hype for The Beguiled — Sophia’s next picture — join me at the screening, and then indulge me in yet another Required Viewing entry? S’il vous plait?!
A: I can’t say no to a Required Viewing, can I? Wait, is that even an option? I do draw the line at horror, even though that line was muddled by the inclusion of Halloween last year. Anyway, I did do some background research like a normal curious reporter-like person, and read the Vanity Fair story on which this film is based. Did you know that the girl who Sam is based upon was the star of a short-lived E! reality series in 2010 called Pretty Wild? This was right as the arm of the law was coming crashing down, so instead of the show being about yet another pretty face partying and modeling in Hollywood, it became about the real-life Alexis Neiers trying to avoid prison. I didn’t go so far as to discover children or careers post-Ring, but the film actually stays very faithful to the original VF article, down to certain quotes and details about the robberies. Highly recommend.
And yes, count me in for The Beguiled.
Next time, we’re heading to Russia for some proto-Jason Bourne action with none other than Mr. Val Kilmer.