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“The Bling Ring” and the TMZ Horrors

Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” is a horror film. And one of the better ones in a while too.

Of course, it’s not exactly meant to be that. It’s not in the “Paranormal” or “Saw” business after all.

Coppola’s fifth film (her best, I think, was “Lost in Translation”) is a sharp little look at the horrors of a very real world she made herself familiar with. To wit: a real band of young Hollywood teen burglars so in love with the purchasable luxuries in the lives of their heroes in “young Hollywood” – namely Paris Hilton, Megan Fox and Orlando Bloom, to name three – that they break into their homes and help themselves to whatever shoes, dresses, tchotchkes and extra cash they feel entitled to.

What, they seem to reason, is the point of their idols leading lives of such material splendor if it can’t be shared by their fans who, similarly, care so very much about the yawning differences between Louboutin and Payless footwear?

So we’re watching burglary, spying and pilferage as a way of life. But beyond that, we’re watching the end result of a whole prevailing voyeuristic value system among some young people in the TMZ (Thirty Mile Zone) – where names (of celebrities and designers and manufacturers of dry goods) and privileged lifestyles are the be-all and end-all of existence.

This is a much subtler and sharper movie than it is often given credit for. Coppola is making a truly savage satire here about the horror of a real kind of American media vacuity that has settled in for a long ride, particularly among some young people on the West Coast. It’s not just about the label and fame and goods obsessions these kids demonstrate; it’s about the mother of one who home-schools her kids on what she’s learned from the best-seller “The Secret.”

When you see, in this movie, the crib of incomparably vapid Paris Hilton, with her pillows festooned with her own picture, her shoe closets larger than most children’s bedrooms, you’re seeing the actual appurtenances of Hilton’s life.

One can guess how Coppola got Hilton to go along with letting her film there – on the grounds, no doubt, that it was just one Hollywood heiress and princess importuning a favor from another.

And that’s one of the uglier subtexts of “The Bling Ring.” This is pure snobbery on the hoof – the contempt of Bohemians everywhere for consumers of naked bling. It’s one Hollywood princess from the artistic family of a great director (Francis Ford Coppola) whose father was a former musician for Arturo Toscanini looking at the consumer and label obsessions of the princess from the famous hotel family (among others).

Coppola seems, by implication, to also be looking down on reality TV celebs and lower-level movie actors. This, she’s telling us with an implied sneer, is what they do with their money. And this, she says, when the camera falls on the teen burglars in the “bling ring” is what their fans look like when they obsess about the lives they read about.

It’s this modern world we have where the Internet tells us everything – not just the goods “celebs” possess but what party or opening they’ll be at next Thursday (and, therefore, when they can be hit for a big score).

It’s a frigid, contemptuous film that reveals, nakedly, hatred of a sort that the Paris Hiltons of the world probably don’t even understand. In its quietly blatant way, though, it’s horrific to watch.

The performances from Coppola’s young actors (and, in one case, Leslie Mann as one of the teen’s mothers) are quite fine, especially that of Emma Watson who’s a very long way indeed from Harry Potter.

Movie Review

The Bling Ring

Rating: 3½ stars

Rated: R

Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard and Lesie Mann in Sofia Coppola’s fictional film about a real bunch of teen burglars who helped themselves to all the luxury goods of their young Hollywood heroes.