The story of Alexis Haines’ entanglement with a circle of Los Angeles-area home invaders has been told multiple times over: In the reporting of Nancy Jo Sales, who profiled her for Vanity Fair in 2010; on her own reality show, “Pretty Wild,” which aired 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 associate Nick Norgo (formerly Nick Prugo), attempts to set the record straight in the Netflix documentary series “The Real Bling Ring: Hollywood Heist.”
The three-episode series sheds little light, and bulks out its running time with idle musings on fame that feel warmed over from the early 2010s. It’s not that Haines’ and Norgo’s stories, told with both respective parties’ permission in this doc, don’t have inherent interest: Both of them became entranced 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 their victims, “The Hills” personality Audrina Patridge, speaks to the camera for “The Real Bling Ring.”)
But Haines and Norgo both are self-aggrandizing in a manner that wears thin after a while; their conflicting memories of who said what to whom more than a decade ago is of only the lightest academic interest. And the milieu in which they still operate comes to feel icky after a while. Norgo’s disappointment with the actor who played him in Coppola’s film not being a young Tom Cruise type hangs in the air, left in as if to mock his sense of himself. And just as “Pretty Wild” did, this documentary takes a certain leering interest in Haines’ mother, a New Age operator who suggests a reality-TV producer’s idea of “a Marianne Williamson type.” (She shows director Miles Blayden-Ryall’s camera a vision board that includes a “million dollar bill”; “Money is simply a physical demonstration of the energy of freedom and abundance,” she declares.)
Much of what transpires here adds up to a fairly damning portrait of a community and a society with completely backwards priorities, from the reality TV producers who captured Alexis’ fall to attorneys who, then and now, were urgently eager to get in front of a camera — to moms seeking the energy of freedom and abundance. The kids, we figure out long before this doc wraps up, truly didn’t stand a chance. But this realization doesn’t open the door to anything new: It’s frankly very easy to talk about how the culture of celebrity worship has changed America, which is why Perez Hilton keeps showing up as a talking-head to do it. No analysis here improves upon Coppola’s wistful, searching film; no news it breaks adds to our understanding of a sad, marginal story.
“The Real Bling Ring: Hollywood Heist” premieres Wednesday, Sept. 21 on Netflix.