A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Bling Ring is based on the real-life escapades of a group of teenage thieves who raided the homes of Hollywood’s rich and famous for their high-end clothing, accessories, and more. While Sofia Coppola's drama demonstrates a clear awareness of the sadly aspirational yearnings and self-aggrandizement that fueled the robberies, it emphasizes the glamor in it, too, as it seeks to uncover exactly how and why the so-called Bling Ring came to be. Be prepared for an almost nonstop litany of label-flashing -- the acquisitiveness factor is set to the max, with an almost slavish detail to the name brands of the items that were stolen -- as well as lots of swearing (from the comparatively tame "ass" to "f--k" and more) and plenty of underage drinking and drug use (both weed and cocaine).
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What's the story?
Marc (Israel Broussard) is the new kid at a Los Angeles high school that's filled with glamorous types who've dead-ended elsewhere or who aren't in a hurry to get anyplace else. Unsure about his place on the totem pole, Marc is quickly embraced by Rebecca (Katie Chang), an amiable, fashionable, and -- he later realizes -- calculating thief who shows him how to check parked cars in her tony neighborhood for stuff to steal. She graduates pretty quickly to casing houses, especially those of the celebrities she worships and fawns over in gossip magazines and tabloids. Soon, they're joined by other like-minded teens: insipid, longing-to-be-famous Nicki (Emma Watson), whose mother (Leslie Mann) thinks teaching from self-help books like The Secret counts as home-schooling; Chloe (Claire Julien), who seems to know as many hipster underground fences and con men as she has friends; and more.
Is it any good?
THE BLING RING, like the rest of director Sofia Coppola's filmography, is an intoxicating, beautiful ride. It transports the audience to a world in which California teens can cherry-pick everything they've lusted after from the homes of their idols, whose privacy they've breached in search of the fabulous life. Or at least lives more fabulous than the teens' already privileged existence. But this movie doesn't have the heart of Lost in Translation, the compassion of Marie Antoinette, or the pathos of The Virgin Suicides. Its main characters keep the audience at a remove, so we're left to observe but not really understand, let alone care, about who they are or why they've done what they have.
As commentary, The Bling Ring is pretty interesting, if not very deep. Watching it feels like going on a high-octane shopping trip and then heading home, bags filled, and realizing that your credit cards have yet to be paid. (Though it has to be said that Coppola's sometime use of webcams to capture the characters' narcissism is virtuoso.) No one comes out unscathed here, not even the celebrities who are ostensibly crime victims. Their seemingly endless array of bling and fabulosity isn't just a lure for a band of high-end thieves, but it also calls into question their own complicity in a culture that celebrates labels, money, and luxury.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the Bling Ring came to be. Can you understand why members of the group wanted to steal from the rich and famous? What drove them? Did they find what they were seeking?
What is the movie saying about the allure of fame and the famous? Why did these kids want to be like the stars so much they started stealing their stuff? Does the media glorify fame?
Are teenagers really this label-hungry? How do they even hear about what celebrities wear and own? What explains all this consumerism?
How does the movie portray underage drinking and drug use? Are there any realistic consequences?
- In theaters: June 14, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: September 17, 2013
- Cast: Emma Watson, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Taissa Farmiga
- Director: Sofia Coppola
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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