Cannes Festival 2013: All that glitters . . .

Sofia Coppola’s new film shows the director still has style – but what substance?

Film Title: The Bling Ring

Director: Sofia Coppola

Starring: Katie Chang Israel Broussard Emma Watson

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 90 min

Thu, May 16, 2013, 19:00

   

The Bling Ring
Directed by Sofia Coppola. Starring Emma Watson, Katie Chang, Israel Broussard, Taissa Farmiga, Claire Julien. Un Certain Regard, 90 min
***

The latest film from Sofia Coppola, still struggling to rediscover the magic that drove Lost in Translation , begins with a blast of noise-pop maestros Sleigh Bells and images that seem plucked straight from a Facebook page. We are in the defiantly empty world of those drifting LA teens who regard the most trivial celebrities as pocket deities. Clocking up a DUI is seen as a rite of passage. Beauty has a price tag.

Coppola’s picture follows a youthful gang who were involved in series of high-profile burglaries of such luminaries as Orlando Bloom, Paris Hilton and Paris Hilton. Their approach was, on the evidence of this so-so film, quite astonishingly casual. After checking the internet to ensure the supernova is out of the city, they stroll up to the mansion, let themselves in through an unlocked door, and browse greedily through Miu Miu shoes and Chanel bags. In one bravura take, Coppola shoots an entire house invasion from a raised camera that crawls almost imperceptibly towards the crime.

That opening clatter suggests that Coppola is setting out to reveal an affinity with her subjects. The film-maker has, after all, often indulged in the passive passivity (as opposed to aggression) that characterises such Californian anti-humans. Sure enough, the film too quickly falls into an unbroken, repetitive celebration of hip materialism. We move through Hilton’s house ; it’s decorated with images of the owner. Awful clubs are visited.

But the characters are also monsters. Emma Watson is particularly gruesome as a self-absorbed girl who exploits her eventual arrest to forward the class of celebrity to which she has so long aspired. There’s nothing wrong with such equivocal thinking, you might say. The problem is, rather than carrying two ideas in her head throughout, the director swerves sickeningly from one attitude to the other. Now, we’re cool. Now, we’re idiots. The occasional outbreaks of venom are neutered by the viewers’ awareness that satirising the vapidity of LA youth is about as useful as satirising the hugeness of basketball players.

For all that, the film is a great deal livelier than Coppola ’s recent, disastrously deadened somewhere. She’s still got something.