If you’ve seen the trailer for Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring, you already know the plot: Rich kids steal from richer celebrities, get caught. This kind of plot-certainty isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it frees up the filmmaker to focus on tone and character rather than story. The Bling Ring portrays its protagonists’ crime sprees in vivid colour to an lively soundtrack (Sleigh Bells, M.I.A., Kanye West – all good stuff). It’s almost like a catalogue of the brands’ products they’re ripping off; Louis Vuitton here, Gucci there. Like the superior Spring Breakers, it’s not interested in romanticising its subject, using repetition and a detached perspective to take something almost pornographic (in this case, Prada-porn) and render it underwhelming and insipid.
The film’s muted tone – at odds with its bright colours and music – is clearly deliberate. This doesn’t, however, make it compelling. The by-the-numbers storyline is dramatically inert, true story or no, and the bold cinematography isn’t enough to distract from the film’s wearisome repetition and vapid characters. Coppola may understand these youths, but the film refuses to emphathise with them, and it left me disengaged. Like an overpriced piece of jewellery, I found The Bling Ring shiny but insubstantial.