This Made-for-TV film shown on Lifetime should not be confused with the film produced and directed by Sofia Coppola two years later. Each has its merits and each is based on this true story that occurred in a suburb of Los Angeles over a period of 10 months in 2008-2009. Pseudonyms are used in each of the films for the members of “The Bling Ring” although their actual names became known when they were brought to justice.
One of the chief protagonists in the film is Zack Garvey (Austin Butler) who has just been transferred to an alternative school for his truancy issues, anxieties, and lack of effort. He has evidently been a loner because he is quite taken in when Natalie (Yin Chang) offered to give him a ride home on his first day. Zack actually had his own car but his mother (Jennifer Grey) drove him on the first day to make sure he got there. You may remember a younger Jennifer Grey when she played opposite Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing.”
Jennifer Grey - Wikimedia
Natalie, to Zack, seemed like a rock star. She was so smart and so daring. When they went shopping, she picked out some high-priced shoes and jeans for Zack and they walked out without paying for them. She wanted Zack to go with her to the Bosso Club where they would see many young Hollywood celebrities. “All you need is a fake ID,” she said. Zack went with her and Natalie was able to gain entrance by telling the bouncer that Zack was a cast member of a TV show. They got in. Zack exclaimed “This is the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life.” Natalie was peeved, though, when she got kicked out of the VIP section. She overheard that there was a party at Paris Hilton’s house and she talked Zack into going with her.
Paris Hilton’s House
At Paris Hilton’s house, nobody was home. Natalie found a key under the doormat. She and Zack went in and headed for Paris Hilton’s bedroom where closets and extra rooms contained her clothes, shoes, jewelry, and even money. Natalie tried on two of Paris’ outfits as she was about the same size as Paris. They noticed that framed magazine covers of Paris decorated the walls of her home, and her picture was on pillows thrown casually on the couches and chairs. Sofia Coppola acquired Paris Hilton’s permission to use her home in sequences of the 2013 version of the story, but the earlier one had to make do with replicas, which served the purpose.
The next day, Natalie and Zack went back to Paris’ house. Zack took some money from a drawer in her bedroom. Paris’ dog Tinkerbell came into the bedroom and started barking. Someone came after Tinkerbell, but Zack and Natalie managed to slip out unnoticed. The newspaper reported that there was a robbery at Paris Hilton’s home. There were no signs of a break-in but the police had a list of what had been stolen. They surmised that it might have been a publicity stunt.
Paris Hilton - Wikimedia
Zack and Natalie brought some stolen clothes back to Zack’s house. When his mother saw the clothes, Natalie said they were her mother’s and she was going to bring them to a homeless shelter. Zack gave his mother a beautiful necklace. When she asked where he got the money, he said that he was mowing Natalie’s mother’s lawn on weekends because she was a single mother.
A Fence is Found
Zack and Natalie went to a flea market to try to sell the clothes they had stolen. The owner told them they needed a license, and they had five minutes to pack up and go. They located a fence, Vin Savage (Alex Feldman) who was able to buy much of their loot and sell it for a higher price. The next time Natalie came over to Zack’s house, she brought three girls with her - Cherry, Moon, and April - who wanted to join them. They giggled and laughed and said “We’re a Club. A Shopper’s Club.”
By using the Internet, the group was able to track the whereabouts of celebrities when they were out of town, givening them to opportunity to rob that house. Their next victim was Audrina Patridge who mentioned in her blog that she was in New York. Audrina posted her robbery on her blog and on YouTube. The girls were excited that it got 100,000 hits. They said to Zack “Where would we be if you hadn’t come to our school?” Whatever house they were in, they took pictures of each other wearing the victims’ clothing and dancing around the room.
Detectives Assigned to the Case
In the meantime, Detectives Fishman and Jenks were assigned to the case. They were able to get fingerprints but there was no match in their database. Teenagers, for the most part, do not have occasion to be fingerprinted. It occurred to the policemen that it might possibly be the work of kids obsessed with celebrities. They set about learning how to use Facebook where a post might give away information.
Orlando Bloom - Wikimedia
The group planned carefully their next victims. Lindsay Lohan, Brian Austin Green, and Orlando Bloom were on the list. It was advertised that Orlando Bloom had a watch worth $500,000. They were becoming experts at their craft, stealing, designer clothes, shoes, handbags, perfume, and underwear. It was estimated that their ten-month loot totaled more than $3 million. Seventeen houses had been looted in that time.
Zack met a girl named Maddie Bishop (Spencer Locke) who was different from the girls who had befriended him in his new school. She worked at the local ice cream shop and gave him a coupon for a free yogurt. He started spending a lot of time with her, which made Natalie mad, although he and Natalie were just friends. She indicated that she might move to Las Vegas to live with her father.
Lindsay Lohan - Wikimedia
The Police Make Some Headway
Detectives Fishman and Jenks picked up some information on the Internet on Zack’s page. His name was given to them by three people. Also, they tracked down the fence, Vin Savage, who cooperated with them and revealed the names of the group. When the detectives went to Zack’s house, he said he would tell them everything provided they did not involve Maddie Bishop because she was totally innocent and was not part of the group. Zack posted his confession on YouTube. It got 10,000 hits.
Where Were the Parents?
One has to wonder where the parents of these children were through all of this nightmare. The film indicated that Zack’s parents were close with him and questioned him about his activities. He covered up his story with lies. Zack’s father, particularly, sensed that something was not right. Zack was taken in because he did not make friends easily and was flattered when he received so much attention from the girls.
Did The Bling Ring go to jail for their offenses? Some did, and others were given probation and had to do community service. Let us hope there are no copycat offenders out there somewhere. They should know that there are dire consequences to crimes such as these. If young people watch this film, they should be advised thoroughly about those consequences.
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