Dir: Sofia Coppola; Starring: Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Taissa Farmiga, Leslie Mann. 15 cert, 90 min.
Of all the new words to have entered our language in the last 25 years, is there any as sweet as ‘bling’? Say it out loud and savour the way it barges out of your mouth: a blubbery plosive followed by a feline arch and flick of the tongue. That one syllable bursts with all the joyful, crass show-offishiness of Sofia Coppola’s new comic drama, which opened the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard programme this morning.
What is Un Certain Regard? In an interview with the trade paper Variety on Tuesday, Thierry Fremaux, the festival’s artistic director, described the strand as a home for films that “are not the films for competition” – perhaps less meaty, but certainly no worse, than the pictures selected to compete for the Palme d’Or. “It doesn’t mean that the films aren’t good,” he said, “but sometimes an author writes a 400-page novel and sometimes a 120-page novel. They are not the same, but both need to exist.”
Well, Coppola’s uproarious and bitingly timely film feels every inch a necessary artwork: the story is closely based on a string of true events that occurred in 2008 and 2009, but if it hadn’t actually happened, someone – Coppola, probably – would have to make it up. Her last film, Somewhere, showed us the showbusiness world from inside the bubble: this one has us on the outside, noses pressed greedily to the glass, thoughtfully fingering an ice pick.
The Bling Ring centres on some coddled Los Angeles high schoolers, played by Emma Watson, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Taissa Farmiga and Claire Julien, who, for reasons of teenage ennui, take a shine to cat-burglary. While reading a gossip website they notice that Paris Hilton, the celebrity heiress, is making a public appearance in Las Vegas. Her Los Angeles home, therefore, will be vacant for the night; and they surmise that Hilton, who is not chiefly celebrated for her mind, would be the kind of person to leave an emergency door key under the mat.
Delightfully, so it proves, and in they sneak. (This is one of many jaw-slackening true-life details in Coppola’s script: in addition, the burglary scenes were actually shot in Hilton’s house, which at a stroke catapults the film’s prurience factor through the ceiling.) Every room seems to have an antechamber crammed with haute couture; every drawer and cupboard is crusted with jewellery. Hilton has so much of everything that taking a little bit of something, the gang decide, would be a victimless crime: so they do.