If TMZ spawned a movie — and I think everyone can agree that’s a horrible idea — then it might resemble The Bling Ring, which is the latest in a recent string of parental nightmares brought to the big screen.
The latest gritty effort from director Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), the film is based on a true story of a string of burglaries of celebrity homes in the Hollywood Hills area in 2008 and 2009 by a group of spoiled suburban teenagers obsessed with fashion and gossip.
The problem is that their nonchalant disregard for authority and false sense of entitlement don’t feel shocking anymore, and the film feels more pretentious than provocative as a result.
Coppola’s script, which is based on an article in Vanity Fair magazine, takes a straightforward narrative approach. It shows how its batch of bored affluent classmates — including Rebecca (Katie Chang), Marc (Israel Broussard) and Nicki (Emma Watson) — band together to search online for addresses of their favorite Hollywood starlets, then figure out when they will be away at some posh function or movie set, and sneak in for their own private tour that includes ransacking the place.
The Bling Ring manages some mild tension as the crimes get more audacious and elaborate before the compulsion of its protagonists leads to their inevitable downfall. Yet these characters aren’t sympathetic in the least, but rather grow more loathsome (and stupid, to be honest) as the film progresses, and Coppola seems content to rub the audience’s collective nose in it.
Unlike Spring Breakers, for example, this film tends to pull back when it should push the envelope. Coppola seems content to examine the material from a distance rather than taking a stance or offering worthwhile insight.
The performances from a cast of relatively unheralded young actors is a mixed bag, although the feisty Watson registers strongly as a manipulative rich girl who knows how to work the system.
The film might have worked better as a sharper satire of generational recklessness, over-privileged materialistic excess, the culture of fame and celebrity, rights to privacy in the age of social media, or even absentee parenting. However, the script doesn’t have enough humor to balance itself out, and winds up almost as smug as its characters.
Rated R, 87 minutes.