Sofia Coppola’s fifth feature, The Bling Ring, is her most stylish and least interesting. It’s the true story (documented by Nancy Jo Sales in Vanity Fair) of a group of L.A. teens, some privileged, who broke into the manses of famous materialists like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan and made off with millions of dollars of designer clothes, shoes, purses, etc. Coppola has made a specialty of evoking spiritual dislocation in fabulous locales, all while moving among (and designing for) the people whose existence she finds so hollow. That’s fine — they’re her tribe. And she’s not without empathy. Or hasn’t been till now.
On the evidence, she hates every lying, vacuous character in The Bling Ring — except maybe the boy, Marc (Israel Broussard), who trails after Rebecca (Katie Chang) because she’s beautiful and confident and he’s new in school and sexually confused and is sad his looks aren’t “A-list.” He has a whiff of Beaver Cleaver. The others are low-hanging fruitcakes. Rebecca isn’t just a kleptomaniac; she’s relentless, voracious — a sociopath. The most prodigious flake is the Nicki of Emma Watson, whose Valley Girl affect is so energetically, cartoonishly unconvincing that she’s actually fun to watch. Watson is still close enough to Hermione to make her character’s winding around a stripper pole seem scandalous. And it’s amusing to think as she pounces on the Louboutins at Chez Lohan how thrilled LiLo would be to have a wealthy British A-lister like Watson in her skank-pit.
Apart from scenes with Leslie Mann as a mother who propagates the wisdom of The Secret (she’d be too heavy-handed for a Disney Channel sitcom), The Bling Ring is easy on the eyes, and I laughed at some of the running gags — like the way the girls gather ‘round the computer to behold the latest TMZ DWI celebrity mugshot. But for the first time in a Sofia Coppola film, what you see is all you get. Even facing the horror of years in prison, they spout vapid clichés. Paris Hilton would be the Hamlet of this group.