Rated R for teen drug and alcohol use, and for language including some brief sexual references.
Running time: 90 minutes.
Two stars out of four.
The sense of detachment that is a signature of Sofia Coppola’s work – the coolly distant, stylishly dreamlike way she regards her characters _ works to her detriment in “The Bling Ring.”
In previous films, including “Lost in Translation” and “Somewhere,” the aesthetic results in an unshakable melancholy; we share her characters’ loneliness and need to connect, we’re with them in feeling lost within fashionable crowds and glittering trappings.
Here, the San Fernando Valley teens who get off breaking into celebrities’ homes are so vapid, Coppola’s tonal choices as writer and director only accentuate how empty they are _ which renders the film itself empty as a result. Coppola has said she didn’t want to pass judgment on anyone involved in bringing this true-crime story to the big screen, which is admirable. But at the same time, she also doesn’t provide much insight. These people are no different at the end than they were at the beginning: they learn nothing, they regret nothing.
We’re left wondering, why do they go to the trouble and risk of pulling off this string of burglaries? Just for the stuff …? That very well may have been the case in real life, but it doesn’t make for the most compelling viewing. Coppola doesn’t seem terribly interested in discovering whether there’s any “there” there.
But “The Bling Ring” is certainly watchable in both its artfulness and its gaudiness. This is the last film of the late, great cinematographer Harris Savides, who also shot Coppola’s “Somewhere”; Christopher Blauvelt shares d.p. duties. And gawking at all the goodies provides a brief and fleeting thrill – all those Louboutins and Louis Vuitton bags. Paris Hilton, a frequent Bling Ring target, even opened her home to Coppola and her crew to shoot the scenes in which she’s victimized. (As you can imagine, it’s simultaneously hilarious and horrifying in its excess.) Ever fashionable herself, Coppola teamed up with costume designer Stacey Battat to recreate the luxurious wardrobes of hot young Hollywood staples including Lindsay Lohan, Megan Fox, Orlando Bloom and Audrina Patridge. (Well, hot back in 2009 when the film takes place.)
The Bling Ring’s mastermind, Rebecca (a chillingly self-possessed Katie Chang), and her insecure, worshipful sidekick Marc (newcomer Israel Broussard), start smaller, though, breaking into random cars and friends’ homes. But their love of clothing design and celebrity culture inspires them to think bigger, Googling stars’ addresses and breaking into their high-end abodes when online entertainment reports indicate they’ll be away at an event or a movie shoot. Damn Internet, with its seemingly useless information.
Soon they include their equally empty pals in the scheme: wannabe model-actress Nicki (Emma Watson, continuing to shatter her good-girl Hermione Granger image); Sam (Taissa Farmiga), Nicki’s wild roommate and fellow homeschooler; and hard-partying rich girl Chloe (Claire Julien). These characters _ whose names have been changed from the real-life figures _ are essentially interchangeable in terms of how they react in each situation and what they do afterward: post Facebook pictures of themselves club-hopping in their purloined party wear.
Their mid-burglary commentary on the items they find can be amusing, but it all should have been funnier, sexier, sharper. Rather than providing any observant commentary on the entitlement of an impatient, demanding generation, the plot consists of one break-in, followed by another, and then another, without much tension, progression or arc.
Any semblance of satire comes from Watson’s character, who might even believe her own hype when she insists she wants to use her newfound notoriety to start a charity. The “Harry Potter” star effectively masks her British accent with a hard, nasal SoCal one, and has shown some impressive range lately between this, “This Is the End” and last year’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
And like the rest of her leggy, young cohorts, she wears the clothes well. That’s about it.