The Bling Ring by Sofia Coppola

Ms. Coppola has done it again, with this cool, of-the-moment film about privileged Southern California teens and the series of burglaries they successfully pulled off at celebrities’ homes.

Ms. Coppola knows this milieu very well. Concisely and subtly she illustrates the amorphous definition of “Hollywood” and its boundaries (who’s in, who’s out, what’s hot, what’s not) and its fleeting 15 minutes of fame. She also gently leads us toward the Gatsby-esque longings of those who want to be part of Hollywood – which, in the context of this film, defines itself by access to other celebrities, brands, and places and people who are cool at this moment. At heart, this is a coming-of-age film, where the wonderfully-drawn cast of characters serve to underscore the power (and popular) dynamics among teenagers and the ways in which ubiquitous Hollywood internet culture becomes their reality. Hollywood, and not their high school, is the backdrop to their dreams and their conflicts. To say that their sense of reality is distorted is facile; rather, their reality is the reality in which we live in, where the difference between ordinary and celebrity is reduced by the acquisition of brand-name goods.

The relationship between fame and conspicuous consumerism has preoccupied me the past few years, particularly with the rise of celebrity endorsements, the 24-7 scrutiny of celebrity consumer choices, and the very American assertion that one can approach celebrity status through purchase. That teenagers and young adults are some of the biggest consumers, both of stuff and of celebrity, only highlights this relationship. When will we have enough?

With Claire Julien, who captures the friendly insouciance of a pampered suburban girl, and Emma Watson, who hilariously captures the self-centeredness of youth.

The Bling Ring. Dir. Sofia Coppola. A24, Nala Films, Zoetrope, et al., 2012. In SoCal English.