Thursday, April 18, 2024

Cannes: Emma Watson of “Harry Potter” Fame Makes “Bling Ring” Shine


It’s nice to see the trio of kid stars from Harry Potter succeeding as young adults, Now it’s Emma Watson’s turn– Hermione, that is. She’s listed as part of the ensemble in Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” which premiered here in Cannes on Thursday morning. And while all the cast members are quite good, Watson just pops out. She’s a star in the making, that’s for sure.

“The Bling Ring” is based on a true story– a bunch of spoiled middle class suburban Los Angeles teenagers broke into the home of C list celebrities–reality stars– and stole about $3 million in cash and other items including clothing and jewelry. Nancy Jo Sales wrote about in Vanity Fair, and now it’s a big screen movie.

This might be a throwaway film if it weren’t for Coppola’s exacting eye, and her precision in capturing a brain dead culture. This is Southern California at its worst. The parents are clueless and into cult like religions and faux spirituality. The kids aspire to nothing more than owning brand name items, becoming famous, having to work for nothing.

Watson plays Nicole who is not the ring leader of the group. That would be excellent newcomer Katie Chang as Rebecca. She’s a real find. Watson, however, is just a member of the group. But she plays the part as if she were Nicole Kidman’s daughter from “To Die For” with the same kind of unabashed venal enthusiasm for celebrity without substance.

Sadly, “The Bling Ring” saga– which happened in 2009– is no different than Less than Zero” or “Thirteen.” This chapter just notches it up a bit thanks to the internet and social networking. Coppola is like Joan Didion capturing not only the kids’ idiocy, and their parents’ but the studpidity of the celebs involved who left keys under their doormats, left doors unlocked,  and didn’t have alarm systems.

More bizarrely, Nicole–who along with the others is finally arrested and sent to jail–comes to do her sentence in the same cell block as one of her victim–Lindsay Lohan. This neat twist isn’t lost on Coppola, who knows exactly how to turn the knife.

Yes, “The Bling Ring” is a morality tale, but it’s also beautifully deadpanned satire. Coppola tells the story efficiently and never stops to pat herself on the back. There’s no winking. And as usual Leslie Mann, as Nicole’s mother, is kind of a divine being sent from comedy heaven. Because she’s Judd Apatow’s real life wife Mann doesn’t get enough credit. She really is Julie Hagerty’s Hollywood younger sister. They’d be hilarious in a movie together.

Little A24 is releasing “Bling Ring.” They made a nice hit out of “Spring Breakers.” This should do even better.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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