Sofia Coppola, The Bling Ring, 2013, HD video, color, sound, 90 minutes. Nicki (Emma Watson).


SOFIA COPPOLA’S REMOTE, REPETITIVE The Bling Ring, inspired by a 2010 Vanity Fair article about a quintet of San Fernando Valley teens who broke into and robbed celebrity homes, is often as insubstantial as the reality-TV stars name-checked (and burgled) throughout. Continuing the writer-director’s favorite theme—the listlessness of the privileged—The Bling Ring centers on adolescent ennui devolving into anomie. But missing from this film are the exacting details and the perfect distillation of milieu that distinguished Coppola’s previous four (even those in which the depressive, pampered protagonists are intolerable, as in 2003’s Lost in Translation). The five felonious teens here are reduced to their cyclical actions: cooing at and pocketing ill-gotten, tacky swag, slo-mo clubbing, drug consuming, and selfie taking.

“I want my own lifestyle brand,” Marc (Israel Broussard), a new, pre-gay student at Indian Hills High School, tells his classmate Becca (Katie Chang) before she introduces him to the thrill of removing valuables—wallets, bags of coke—from unlocked cars. With the help of DListed and easily Googled VIP addresses, the two slip into Paris Hilton’s manor effortlessly (she keeps the key under the mat) while the heiress is away, marveling at her pet monkey, the throw pillows emblazoned with her image, and her holiest of hidey-holes, her “nightclub room.” (Coppola’s production designer took no liberties: Hilton, who was repeatedly robbed by the real-life juvie thieves, let the director film these scenes in her home.)

Marc and Becca soon team up with Chloe (Claire Julien) and Nicki (Emma Watson) and Sam (Taissa Farmiga); the latter two are de facto sisters under the Adderall-dispensing, homeschooling, Secret-quoting, vision-board-making care of Nicki’s mom (Leslie Mann). Nicki, an aspiring supermodel, makes the most petulant demands: “C’mon, let’s go to Paris’s. I wanna rob.” And so we return to the socialite’s lair, this time glimpsing one of her Chihuahuas and her shoes (“Her feet are so big”). Yet the thrill of being amid such gaudy opulence stirs little excitement among this covetous group. The stripling burglars’ lassitude makes a viewer appreciate even more the ecstatic inventorying of James Franco’s Alien in Spring Breakers (“I got my blue Kool-Aid, I got my fuckin’ NUN-CHUCKS…”), still the year’s definitive movie on invidious consumption.

Though slight, The Bling Ring offers further proof of Coppola’s infallible instinct for casting young actresses. Like Kirsten Dunst in The Virgin Suicides (1999) and Elle Fanning in Somewhere (2010), Watson, the biggest name among the five housebreakers, gives a fantastic performance. Watching Harry Potter’s Hermione perfect the aggressive, flat-voweled vapidity of SoCal self-redemption speak (“I think this situation was attracted into my life as an opportunity to grow. I think it’s my journey to push for peace,” Nicki says before her court date) stands as the film’s sole revelation—a rare pleasure in an apathetic project about torpid teens.

Melissa Anderson

The Bling Ring opens in limited release June 14.