Sofia Coppola, who, as the offspring of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, has parlayed her daughter-of-privilege upbringing and her insider Hollywood access into a directing career mainly focused on the soul-deadening ennui of fabulous wealth and fame.
In carefully observed and minutely detailed works such as “Lost in Translation,” the satin-and-jewel-encrusted “Marie Antoinette” and the sublimely aimless “Somewhere,” Coppola has largely essayed the perils of the luxe life from inside the suffocating bubble of celebrity culture.
With the polished but too-cool-for-its-own-good feature “The Bling Ring,” the filmmaker steps slightly – only slightly – outside the bubble to examine a vapid band of vamps and dudes, San Fernando Valley teens worshipping at the altar of celebrity media, who see and envy the lush lifestyle of the stars and determine to go out and steal it. At a miniscule remove from her insider perch, Coppola remains a scrupulously dispassionate observer, unable or unwilling to render sharp judgment on even the most self-indulgent and sociopathic behavior.
Drawn from a 2010 Vanity Fair article about real-life teen thieves who raided the homes of celebs such as Paris Hilton, Megan Fox, Lindsey Lohan and others who were off on vacations or film shoots, Coppola’s movie feels more like slice-of-life sociology than compelling drama.
The tale of lifestyle envy and shallow people obsessed with shallow pop culture is populated by an attractive cast of fresh young actors, led by newcomer Katie Chang as amoral material girl Rebecca, Israel Broussard as her enabling boyfriend Marc and a very un-“Potter”-like Emma Watson as aspiring model Nicki.
Bored and possessing more social media savvy than common sense, these Hollywood hangers-on frequent clubs and are conversant in all the hippest new fashions. So it’s not a big leap when Rebecca and Marc concoct a scheme to burglarize the mansions of stars when they’re out of town. It proves surprisingly easy to waltz into these amazingly unsecured pleasure palaces and waltz away into the night with dazzling caches of designer shoes, dresses, jewelry, artworks and wads of cash.
But the bumbling burglars eventually give themselves away when they post info on their pilfered Prada and other ill-gotten goods on Facebook and parade around wearing their stolen designer duds in public.
There are some laughs to be had from these nincompoops’ cluelessness and greed, and the whole thing is lent an eerie air of reality by brief cameos from Paris Hilton and Kirsten Dunst. But, ultimately, without a strong sense of moral direction or irony “The Bling Ring” winds up feeling as frivolous and soulless as its vacuous gang of twisted teens.
- Dennis King
“The Bling Ring”
2 ½ stars
Starring: Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Emma Watson, Claire Julien
(Teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references)