The concept behind making a movie about the Hollywood burglars sensationally named the Bling Ring is flawed because, although the recent Sofia Coppola version directly credits Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair piece (now book) as a source, there are stark differences between the Coppola version and the Lifetime Network movie (2011).
First and foremost, the central focus of each film. The Lifetime version follows the story line of the police investigator who makes the arrest. The Coppola version uses interviews by police and the aforementioned Sales to mold a story line around the motives of the Ring’s members — and there is no such mention of a lead investigator on the police force.
The following are other glaring differences between the two versions:
• The Lifetime film includes a scene during an initial break-in at Paris Hilton’s house in which Paris comes home and Zack and Natalie barely escape. The Coppola film doesn’t include such a scene, which you’d think would be important in the story; however, Rebecca and Marc (the same anonymous people) are nearly caught by police on patrol as they leave Paris’ home. Moreover, Coppola’s film shows us how often the Ring returned to specific homes, which the Lifetime movie doesn’t
• In the Lifetime movie, we are led to believe Zack stashes his goodies at the nursing facility in which his grandmother lives. In Coppola’s movie, the grandmother at least appears to own a home (and an attic)
• Marc’s parents aren’t around in Coppola’s version, whereas Nicki’s are. Nick’s parents play a major role in the Lifetime film. Nicki’s parents (I mean, whoever the Nicki counterpart is in the Lifetime version) aren’t featured.
• The way the Ring is turned into police is different. In Coppola’s version, someone who partied with the Ring remembered how much they bragged and called the police. In the Lifetime movie, it’s actually Zack turning himself into a police investigator on Facebook.
• In Coppola’s version, the Ring gets into a bad car accident (drunk driving… or was it drug driving?) after a heist. This detail isn’t included in the Lifetime version.
• Oh, yeah. Drugs play a major role in Coppola’s version, and maybe that was too much for even Lifetime to put on television. Maybe.
Coppola’s The Bling Ring is much better, even though the differences are distracting. The way she approaches this story is so much more revealing and interesting than the Lifetime movie. At first, the Lifetime movie was cool because we just wanted to see this sensational news story in script form, but Coppola’s version has great depth.
It begins and ends with the arrests of the Ring, focusing specifically on Nicki (whom we believe to be real-life Alexis Neiers, who was a main source for Sales’ story) and Marc. Nicki is an aspiring model, actress, on-screen etcetera. She’s home schooled and gets away with a lot, but they all do. Marc is taken advantage of by Rebecca, who is the Ring’s leader, which is a story line that is stressed in the Lifetime version.
Where Coppola makes the most in character development, though, is with ring leader Rebecca, played pretty well by Katie Chang. Over time, we realize Rebecca is pretty psychotic about stealing from the rich; in fact, a Marc testimonial reveals that he thought she wanted too much to be a part of that lifestyle and community that it fueled her desire to do this.
It accumulates and accumulates until we’re waiting around for her head to explode. Instead, we get one of the best lines in the film when a police officer tells Rebecca that law enforcement has talked to all the those celebrities who were burglarized — including Rebecca’s vice, Lindsay Lohan.
Rebecca: Did you speak to any of the victims?
Officer: I spoke to all the victims.
Rebecca: (Leaning forward in her seat) Really? What did Lindsay say?
There are soft, comical moments: the Ring selling the merchandise on Venice Beach, Marc telling Vanity Fair that he got 800 Facebook friend requests after the story broke and accepted all of them, Sam trying to mix a leopard print top and zebra heels and Marc telling her off, any and all of Nicki’s responses to reporters’ questions ever.
There are confusing and revealing moments: the Ring arrives at a party after a heist and brags about exactly where they’ve been and what they’ve stolen. They’re boasting, but compromising themselves because a fellow party goer makes the call to police when the investigation hits news stations.
Then, there are tense moments. Namely, the moment Nicki finds a gun in Megan Fox’s house, gives it to Sam and Sam proceeds to wave it around all over the place including at Marc’s face. This causes Marc to lose his cool a bit, rightfully so after Sam goes steals the gun, goes to her boyfriend’s house to have sex and the gun goes off (yeah, it’s loaded).
The big takeaway, though, are the motives. Rebecca being the worst of all, each member of the Ring has a little bit of her aspirations. As Marc says, “I think we just wanted to be a part of that lifestyle. The lifestyle that everybody kind of wants.”
Oh, and by the way, Claire Julien is really, really good as Chloe in a small Ring role.
“The Bling Ring”: ★★1/2