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Published July 29, 2013

Paris Hilton has faded a little from the public eye in recent years, but celebrity culture remains as virulent as ever. Hilton, as the poster girl of being “famous for being famous”, was the perfect first target of a group of fame and glamour-obsessed burglars, and cameos in Coppola’s The Bling Ring.

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The Bling Ring is based on the true story of a group of teenagers who stole over $3 million in money and goods from celebrities, including Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Rachel Bilson. Ringleader Rebecca Anh (Katie Chang) befriends Marc Hall (Israel Broussard) and introduces him to thieving, and soon enough, Nicki (Emma Watson), Chloe (Claire Julien) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga) get involved too.

What results is an interesting look at celebrities and celebrity culture, and potentially a “cautionary tale”.

Sofia Coppola is known best for directing The Virgin Suicides and Lost In Translation, and here, she directs a cast that is young, mostly untested, but impressively real-feeling. Emma Watson (best known for her work as Hermione in Harry Potter) obviously knows what she’s doing as a vapid, “humanitarian” Nicki, and newcomer Katie Chang is dead-on as the manipulative, sneaky ringleader Rebecca. Another major player is Mark, played by Israel Broussard. Interestingly, in a film directed by and featuring women, Mark is the only really sympathetic character.

The film is a fictional account of real events, so there’s bound to be a level of separation. But there’s also a lot of very true to life stuff. Some dialogue is lifted from interview transcripts or actual footage, which makes everything feel that much more real. It does help that Paris Hilton lent her house to filming, which makes the scenes in which they cavort around her bedroom, “night club room” and shoe closet especially surreal.

Culture today is saturated with celebrities and reality TV, and The Bling Ring capitalises on that. A mixture of glamour and critique, at times the lives depicted onscreen seem impossibly beautiful, and at other times, you can see the f**ked-upness of it all.

With a spot-on soundtrack featuring music from Frank Ocean, Avicii and deadmau5, The Bling Ring may not be a film for the ages, but it’s perfect for now. And Emma Watson is smoking.

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