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True Hollywood story...

"It's great."

"It's chill."

"That's mine."

"It's so cute."

There's a limit to how many times your ears can absorb the repetition of a meaningless verbal tic before it feels as though your entire listening apparatus has been shot up with novocaine. Add listless "vocal fry" to the mix, so that everything coming out of the speaker's lips sounds like a slow, bored croak and it's a blinking aural signpost into a life lived in a veal fattening pen of vapidity. This is the way people talk in The Bling Ring and these are the meaningless expressions they volley back and forth; the effect is funny and sad, the most overtly satirical element in Sofia Coppola's otherwise deadpan investigation into greedy teenage formlessness.

The kids in question (Emma Watson, Israel Broussard, Katie Chang, Claire Julien, Taissa Farmiga) are all either students at an alternative high school for dropouts or, in the case of Watson's character, homeschooled by a mother (Leslie Mann, more or less mimicking her character from This Is 40) whose favorite textbook is The Secret and whose goal is making sure her daughters get the fame they deserve.

Based on the true story of the group of Southern California teenagers who broke into a series of celebrity homes to steal millions of dollars in clothing, luxury items and cash, these are Coppola's contemporary Marie Antoinettes without kingdoms, kids who demand Birkin bags and bottle service. "I want my own lifestyle brand," says the lone gay boy in the group, and that's about as careerist as these kids get before they get caught.

They rob, they drink, they snort cocaine, they hang out in Paris Hilton's empty house (Coppola got permission to shoot there) as if it were their own, they shop on pricey Robertson Boulevard in Los Angeles, they get frozen coffee drinks and they talk about what outfits are cute. Then they get arrested. Then they get interviewed by Vanity Fair. And since truth is always more bizarre than fiction, in real life two of the girls got their own reality show on E! called Pretty Wild, a baffling mix of true crime documentary and confession-cam idiocy.

Coppola wisely decides to ignore that stuff, probably realizing that the hyperactive quality of anything that would wind up on The Soup would throw her off the trail of discovery. Her approach to these kids isn't condescending, it's clinical, as though her microscope wants to know the mechanism that creates children who are acquisitive but not curious, lacking inner resources but not motivated to figure out what's really missing. She presents them as the logical outcome of a culture that thinks Orlando Bloom's and Rachel Bilson's love lives should be news to anyone who isn't already Orlando Bloom or Rachel Bilson. It's not empathy but it's also not moralizing. She's interested in function but not fault. Let E! handle crafting a spin on these kids. That's their job.


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