The Bling Ring: Sofia Coppola’s Beverly Hills Heist Movie

The Bling Ring

Opens Fri., June 21 at Guild 45th and other theaters. Rated R. 87 minutes.

If we lived in the days when directors cranked out a couple of titles a year—or even one per annum—then it might be less dispiriting to report that The Bling Ring is Sofia Coppola’s latest movie. But Coppola has made just three features since Lost in Translation, her 2003 breakthrough, poking along through the period frou-frou of Marie Antoinette and the art-movie lethargy of Somewhere. She’s in her early 40s now, and somehow ought to be past The Bling Ring.

But here it is. And it’s not a terrible movie, exactly. It’s even fun at times. Certainly the real-life case of teenagers who robbed the houses of L.A.’s most vacuous stars must have sounded ripe for a satirical spin around the block. The youthful thieves went on their spree in 2008–09, and their targets included Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Orlando Bloom. One senses Coppola’s interest is especially piqued by the inanity of these victims: The robbers couldn’t even pick cool dumb celebrities, just dumb dumb celebrities.

The crime spree, which comes across as more a symptom of Friday-night boredom than greed, grows naturally from the friendship of sociopathic Rebecca (Katie Chang) and easily led gay kid Marc (Israel Broussard). They execute the burglaries by Googling the busy schedules of fave celebs, which makes locating their empty houses easy enough. Their equally vapid friends, Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farmiga, sister of Vera), and Chloe (Claire Julien), join the nocturnal prowls. More giggly pranks than criminal exercises, these break-ins qualify as “something to do” for idle, privileged teens.

Paris Hilton is in the movie (and her actual house is used as a location), so Coppola is dipping us right into the celebrity sauce without overt editorializing. I suppose this neutral stance is meant to distance The Bling Ring from finger-shaking 1950s films about these kids today with their crazy rock and roll. Although if Coppola really wanted to take a radical position, she might try to get us in the skin of these mall-going, designer-obsessed nitwits. Casting Harry Potter’s Watson is another insider touch, and her quick, snide delivery pays off. None of it exactly becomes satire, except for the barbs aimed at a dippy mom (Leslie Mann) home-schooling her children according to the wisdom of The Secret.

So the kids are not all right, and Sofia Coppola wants you to know that—even if it already seemed obvious from the news story itself. Coppola doesn’t add much to the headlines beyond some impressively trendy music and enough gaudy fashion to suggest that a new Roman Empire may indeed be collapsing under its own bad taste.

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