Since the early days of cinema, the dragon lady has been a recurring character. She’s the beautiful but sinister “Oriental” femme fatale who causes the hapless white hero’s demise. Katie Chang in The Bling Ring is Rebecca, the leader of the Hollywood brats who made a name for themselves burglarizing celebrity homes. Though Asian, Rebecca’s ethnicity isn’t mentioned and she doesn’t have an accent. What she does have is an unmistakable allure. When she approaches shy transfer student Mark (Israel Broussard) slumped at his locker, he’s smitten. “Hey there, new kid,” she says, sweetly. The one woman welcome wagon has some tricks up her sleeve, however. We want to scream to him “get out, now!”
He doesn’t, of course and that’s the fun. Director and co-writer (with Nancy Jo Sales) Sophia Coppola, gives us complex characters based on the actual culprits. Through social media and because they live in Los Angeles, celebrity obsessed Mark and Rebecca have instant access to the stars. Mark doesn’t appear to be criminally inclined, but he’s easily drawn in by Rebecca who takes advantage of his computer skills.
“Willing victim” was never more appropriate than in Mark’s case. He came to his new school craving acceptance and finds it as part of Rebecca’s gang. The girl as “one of the boys” is a recurring theme in recent movies. Here, the boy with an eye for fashion becomes one of the girls. When rifling through a celebrity’s closet, he can immediately pick out the good stuff. From all indicators, he’s gay. Still, that doesn’t save him from being under Rebecca’s spell and the consequences it brings.