The Bling Ring (R) (90 min.) — Our celebrity obsessions get a frisky poke but not the skewering they deserve in Sofia Coppola's movie, based on a true story. In 2008, a clique of Los Angeles teenagers feeling entitled to lives they envied started casing and burglarizing the homes of stars like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.
The fact that we hang star status on Lohan and Hilton says a lot about what's wrong with modern society that The Bling Ring barely covers. Perhaps Coppola is too close to that circle to stick a needle deep enough; Hilton allowed her friend to re-create the invasions of her privacy in her spacious home, so how invaded was she? It feels like just another means of Hilton's consumption being conspicuous.
Maybe it's because these teenagers are shallower than their idols, but Coppola's screenplay doesn't dig much into their personalities beyond fashion. They're an elite bunch even before stealing nearly $3 million in money, shoes, clothes and jewelry and carelessly posing with them on social media. There is no style to their casing method — checking celeb sites to see who'll be away from home at parties — or panache to their thefts, simply checking for unlocked doors. Ocean's Under 18 these kids aren't.
If you're asking where parents were during this crime spree, you'll wonder the same about the movie. Only one mother is showcased, played with the movie's lone spark of satire by Leslie Mann as a homeschooler with lesson plans based on the self-help manual The Secret. Among the self-absorbed teenagers, Emma Watson makes the best impression since her role is so far removed from Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies.
Coppola's movie has a sense of indie vitality, although the energy feels wasted by running in place. A couple of heists are filmed with the reckless abandon that must have intoxicated the real culprits, but the movie's best scene is one unbroken take, filmed from afar as the burglars scurry through a starlet's trendy glass pad. Coppola keeps The Bling Ring brief — under 90 minutes — which is what this interesting yet skimpy material deserves. C+
Steve Persall, Times movie critic