Fame, Fortune, and Felony
Episode 2 of The Real Bling Ring: Hollywood Heist starts off with Nick explaining the difference between a “star” and a “celebrity”. The former has a unique magic and charm that can mesmerize people like the latter simply cannot. Nick explains that they used Oscar night in 2009 as an opportunity to commit the burglary as the houses would be empty. Audrina Patridge was the next target. She was the star of The Hills, a successful television show. She makes an appearance in this episode, detailing her ordeal after getting robbed.
Audrina then tells her own feelings about the breaking-in. It happened on the night of the Oscars. The door is again left unlocked. She thought that someone would kill her and locked herself in the closet and started shaking when she found out. She describes it as “the most terrifying night of her life”. Audrina was out for revenge. She gave the surveillance video to the police. They also took family heirlooms and the robbery then became personal. Greg Kading was the lead detective in the county and took the case.
They then talk about the beginning of the influencer era at that point when magazines and print media became secondary. It marked the start of digital organizations like TMZ and the epidemic of paparazzi. The police used it to speak out to the younger generation to scope out the culprits. “Exploiting the moment” is what celeb culture is about, TMZ’s chief says. While Nick was on with the thefts, Alexis focused on her career in Hollywood. Dan Levy, an actor from Frat Party, a film Tess and Alexis were doing, called them. He talked to them about the pilot of a reality tv show. Their lives were broadcast on television. They would essentially be the “poor man’s Kardashians”.
The next victim for Nick and Rachel was The O. C. star Rachel Bilson. She went to NY for a fashion event. They were even for stopped for speeding on that fateful night but nothing came of it. The house was in Los Feliz, another posh area. Bilson’s closet was full of designer accessories. Chanel bags, Gucci clothes; stuff like that. They were getting more comfortable with the burglaries and Rachel even used her washroom. Nick and Alexis started getting close. He drove to their house with the stolen clothes and asked the girls to pick their choice.
Alexis knew at that point Nick was involved in all the burglaries. But they told their mother that they were being loaned the clothes by a stylist. Some belongings of the celebrities that were taken were too personal to be overlooked. Like Audrina’s heirlooms or Bilsen’s mother’s engagement ring. These things cannot be replaced. The producers from E! Entertainment called them back and picked up the show for the pilot. Nick was cast as a B-character on Alexis’ behest but was quickly dismissed due to his incompetence.
Andrea was an overbearing mother and suffocated her daughters. She was a realistically driven woman and made her daughters dependent on her. She didn’t want to be abandoned like her own mother. The sisters were then hooked on Oxycontin. It is an extremely addictive opiate. Andrea was getting worried that it would take a toll on their reality show and hence ousted Tess. Alexis followed her and went to Nick’s. That’s when Alexis wanted to become a part of the group. But Alexis denies it on the camera. Nick eventually decided against it.
Orlando Bloom was next. The highest profile star yet. He was shooting a movie when the group decided to strike. Alexis went on that run to get more money for drugs. Rachel brought a friend too, Diana.
Alexis claims on camera that she was under the effect of drugs on the run but Nick denies it in the next scene. Alexis claims she wasn’t aware of whose house that night. Nick denies it again. Another thing he said about the issue of Alexis peeing in the house. And then some more contradictory accounts of how Alexis felt and how readily she took to the burgling.
She definitely came to the documentary to save face is what Nick says. The wealth enticed him and they got a lot of Rolexes and cash. Alexis, apparently, couldn’t handle the rush. She was scared and called her mother to move back in with her. The police now saw them as serial burglars. The ring wanted to be celebs of their own by stealing other people’s stuff. The advent of social media furthered this emotion of looking perfect. The fabrication of the perfect life lured them into doing all of it, especially Nick.
The reality show changed the girls’ attitude. They started distancing themselves from Nick. Tess somehow was able to meet Kid rock. Alexis also mentions talking to a huge actor from Hollywood. The girls were drawn by this new world and would disappear for days on the stretch in the private jets of older men, Andrea explains. But she had done the same and didn’t bother probing more or stopping them. Lindsay Lohan became the face of LA from 08-10. Nick felt he wanted to emulate all of Lohan’s antics and shenanigans. They hit her house. Nick Rachel and Diana went to her house. Although she wasn’t home, Nick felt uncomfortable because the house had no exit from the backyard.
It just dropped off into a cliff. Her house was even more extravagant. The trio left with loads of stuff from the house. But this time, the police got more substantial clues about the perpetrators’ identity. They made the connection between the Patridge and Lohan burglaries. Nick panicked and moved the stolen cargo from his house to a stronger facility at his grandmother’s.
Tess and Alexis, burdened with guilt, called the police and named Nick. The police went on to Facebook, compared his face with the burglar, and were certain they’d found their guy.
The Episode Review
I think having watched the Sofia Coppola movie and how the burglaries were committed, this series has kind of lost its USP. Granted, the insights into the members of the ring and the truth about appearances are fascinating at times. But they aren’t enough to glue me to the television screen.
What should have been the tipping point of gripping suspense and anticipation has already been reimagined by Coppola’s vision in The Bling Ring (2013). It is all conversation and not more. The investigation by the police hardly features and we haven’t even got to trial yet.
The thematic narrative about the mechanics and psyche of the criminals and the crime isn’t something we haven’t heard before. It has been the truth of that generation for almost a decade, manifesting perfectly well in quality cinema. Somehow, episode 2 exposes some of the flaws that the idea to make this documentary-like feature in the first place.