The story of Alexis Haines’ involvement in a circle of Los Angeles-area intruders has been told several times: in the 2010 coverage of Nancy Jo Sales, who portrayed her for Vanity Fair; on her own reality show, Pretty Wild, which airs on E! in 2010; and in Sofia Coppola’s 2013 film The Bling Ring, based on Sales’ work. Now, Haines (formerly Alexis Neiers), along with former collaborator Nick Norgo (formerly Nick Prugo), is attempting to set the record straight in the Netflix documentary series The Real Bling Ring: Hollywood Heist.
The three-episode series sheds little light, filling its runtime with idle musings on fame that have felt warmed since the early 2010s. It’s not that Haines and Norgo’s stories, told in this document with the permission of both parties, lack inherent interest: Both were enchanted by the concept of celebrity and, as part of the “Bling Ring” cabal, stole cash and Belongings from the homes of famous people including Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom. (One of her victims, “The Hills” personality Audrina Patridge, speaks to the camera for “The Real Bling Ring.”)
But Haines and Norgo both portray themselves in ways that wear off after a while; Their conflicting recollections of who said what to whom more than a decade ago are of little academic interest. And the milieu in which they still move becomes disgusting over time. Norgo’s disappointment that the actor who played him in Coppola’s film wasn’t a young Tom Cruise guy hangs in the air as if to poke fun at his confidence. And just like Pretty Wild, this documentary shows a certain mocking interest in Haines’ mother, a New Age operator who suggests the idea of a reality TV producer from “a Marianne Williamson guy.” (She shows director Miles Blayden-Ryall’s camera a vision board containing a “million dollar bill”; “Money is simply a physical demonstration of the energy of freedom and abundance,” she explains.)
Much of what is leaking here makes for a pretty scathing portrait of a community and a society with utterly backward priorities, from the reality TV producers who chronicled Alexis’ fall to the lawyers who desperately wanted it then and now were to go to court camera – for mothers who seek the energy of freedom and abundance. The children, we find long before this document ends, really didn’t stand a chance. But this realization doesn’t open up anything new: It’s honestly very easy to talk about how the culture of celebrity worship has transformed America, which is why Perez Hilton keeps popping up as a speaker to do so. No analysis here improves on Coppola’s wistful, inquiring film; no news it breaks adds to our understanding of a sad side story.
The Real Bling Ring: Hollywood Heist premieres Wednesday, September 21 on Netflix.