Much creepy attention has been lavished on photos doing the rounds of Emma Watson pole dancing (Hermione’s legal!) in The Bling Ring. But the real story here isn’t the good-girl-goes-bad stunt casting; it’s that Watson can act. Against the odds, the Harry Potter star gives a sharp, knowing smart performance as Nicki, one of a gang of spoiled rich Californian brats robbing the houses of celebs who, like, totally deserve it. Directed by Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette), this is a funny, sarky, bang-on portrayal of the freakiness of celeb obsession. The story would sound outrageous – if it wasn’t true.
Between 2008 and 2009 a gang of high-schoolers, who became known by the media as the Bling Ring, stole more than US$3m in clothes, cash, jewellery and art from the homes of Paris Hilton (who makes a brief appearance), Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan and more. Using gossip sites like TMZ, they calculated when their victims would be out of town and googled their addresses. Easy as. Hilton was even so kind as to leave a key under her doormat. Not exactly criminal masterminds, the Bling Ring took selfies of themselves in designer swag and brazenly posted them on Facebook.
In Coppola’s last film, Somewhere, she depicted the meaningless of celebrity life. Here she nails the cult of celebrity worship. In a disturbingly funny scene, ringleader Rebecca (Katie Chang) stands in Lindsay Lohan’s bedroom smothering herself with Lilo’s perfume, staring at herself in the mirror in almost drugged-up ecstasy. This isn’t just about nabbing a Hermès Birkin bag (price tag $10,000) for free, it’s about fantasy. "I’ve never been an A-lister guy," says the gang’s only boy. By wearing Orlando Bloom’s Rolex, he’s living the dream.
In films like Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides, Coppola gave us lost girls, somehow trapped. These girls are lost too. It’s just kind of hard to take them seriously. Here’s Nicki in regulation A-list sunglasses talking to the cameras when the gang is finally busted: "I’m a firm believer in karma… I want to lead a country one day." Through some kind of meta-weirdness, the gang soon became as famous as the celebs they stole from. This is easily Coppola’s funniest film. In 20 years’ time, The Bling Ring will surely feel like a time capsule of now.