If you’re looking for a movie that captures the essence of celebrity-obsession, Sofia Coppola’s (daughter of famed director Francis Ford Coppola) led The Bling Ring certainty tops that list. The movie, released last summer, is based on the real life crimes of a group of Los Angeles teenagers who broke into the homes of a slew of A-list celebrities including Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Rachel Bilson and Megan Fox. While the real buglers are spending time behind bars and still in the midst of a lengthy probation, the movie became not only fodder for the actual crime, but allowed for a satirical look—while not violent in nature, still an invasion of privacy, but planned (by these teenagers) for the purposes of obtaining expensive clothing and jewelry. As movie critic Richard Roeper called Emma Watson’s portrayal of Alexis Neiers “comedic gold”, while on the surface, Watson isn’t playing the role of a cartoon character leaping over fences, skinning knees, cracking jokes and misleading officers about her identity when confronted at the home she shares with her mother and father and her two sisters, her character is simply oblivious to reality, as she truly thinks she means what she says.
I thought the dichotomy of this movie allowed for a bit more interpretation on my end.
In the film, there are brief appearances by those in the real life Bling Ring case: socialite Paris Hilton and Los Angeles police officer Brett Goodkin. Goodkin was the arresting officer in the real-life crimes and was paid over $12,000 for not only his cameo in the movie, but by serving as the technical adviser/consultant, specifically for his help within recreating scenes that involved police procedures. After shooting, the LAPD launched an I.A. investigation into Goodkin’s work on the film as well as his conduct on the force. Blurring the lines between reality and film presents the concept of what Sean Hall dicusses in This Means This That Means That: Appearance and Reality. When watching this movie, a viewer is reminded of this real crime by seeing the presence of Hilton and Goodkin (i.e. the appearance of being authentic and real), but in reality, it is just a portrayal—when we see the kids rummaging through Hilton’s bedroom, we have to understand the context here: Hilton’s house is technically not being robbed at that moment, all her items are safe by the per-approved setting of the movie, nor is Goodkin on the clock for the LAPD actually arresting a suspect.
It is all about how the real-life incidences appear to the viewer, which can easily take one out of the movie setting and have one believe they are watching real life.
Throughout the film, I noticed that the stolen goods from the Hollywood Hills houses were displayed in the center of the screen, perhaps a nod to Hill’s Center and Margin (“Centers provide a focus. Centers are important and vital […] and act as hubs around which other things are positioned.”) There is something to be said about an item in this film, from the prominent presence of the stolen Chanel bags from Lindsay Lohan promptly being placed at the center of a Venice Beach Boardwalk vendor space, surrounded in the margins by the Blingers’ themselves (a hopeful example of margins being “overridden by their centers”), the frames of a celebrity shoe closet displaying one of the Blingers strapping an expensive Louis on her shoulder or the carefully placed piece of jewelry boldly stating “Rich Bitch” that in a quick scene of necklaces, rings and bracelets labeled as evidence stands out as the middle of this piece. The items themselves, while not the hopeful obtainable goal in this movie, still needs to be shown in quite an interesting way.
Or perhaps this movie is one big metonym, beyond just the idea that some movies are based on real life events, but the purpose of these teenagers breaking into these homes is their way of closely associating themselves with fame and celebrity, as a crown is used to mean a queen, maybe the stolen possession of a celebrity expensive designer bag, for them, could mean stardom.