Friday marks the release of Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring, which centers on five Los Angeles teens who robbed the homes (or, more accurately, the closets) of their favorite celebrities — and got caught. While we're already excited for the film (and here's why!) the critical reviews have been a mixed bag. Coppola's film gets points for being stylish and edgy, but, unfortunately, the general vote is that the film's character development — or lack thereof — weakens the overall story.
Here's what the critics are saying:
On Sofia Coppola's Script and Direction:
While many of Sofia Coppola's films have been introspective and character-driven, many of the Bling Ring reviews mention that the characters within the film fall flat. There is no emotional arc or depth to the notorious five. Coppola's first few burglary sequences play out well, but many critics found that the robberies quickly became repetitive and mundane.
"Everything about The Bling Ring is beautifully rendered, with an attention to detail that has become a Coppola signature so lushly realized in the bouffants and bustles of 2006's Marie Antoinette... Yet... there is much about the director's work that somehow does end up lost in translation. She stays ever at a distance, keenly observing but never taking a stand. In The Bling Ring, that leaves the characters with no discernible emotional arc. These teens flat-line from start to finish." — Betsey Sharkey, The L.A. Times
"Sofia Coppola's reenactment of the real-life break-ins and thefts perpetrated by bored California high schoolers in 2008 and ’09 is narratively static and morally banal. That may be par for the course, however, when half the movie is spent watching shallow kids try on other people’s clothes." — Joe Neumaier, The N.Y. Daily News
"Once the kids have perfected their formula – rob a celebrity home, hit the club, take a selfie, repeat – "The Bling Ring" gets a little mundane. But that doesn't take from Coppola's impressive camerawork, particularly an extended wide angle of the kids raiding a window-laden mansion, nor a brilliant soundtrack that perfectly expresses the bandits' desires." — Tierney Sneed, U.S. News
"...for the first time in a Sofia Coppola film, what you see is all you get. Even facing the horror of years in prison, [the teens] spout vapid clichés. Paris Hilton would be the Hamlet of this group." - David Edelstein, Vulture
On Emma Watson as Nicki:
Who would have thought that a former Ivy League girl from London could pull off vapid Valley Girl so effortlessly? Critics loved Emma Watson as the fictionalized Alexis Neiers (aka, Nicki).
"Watson does a great imitation of hollow-eyed gaze; her character is the one who tries to parlay notoriety into success (everyone else can, she figures). The one-time Harry Potter star captures the slack-jawed fan only too well. One can guess the young actress has likely endured more than a few actual Nickis." — Joe Neumair, The N.Y. Daily News
"The most prodigious flake is the Nicki of Emma Watson, whose Valley Girl affect is so energetically, cartoonishly unconvincing that she’s actually fun to watch. Watson is still close enough to Hermione to make her character’s winding around a stripper pole seem scandalous. And it’s amusing to think as she pounces on the Louboutins at Chez Lohan how thrilled LiLo would be to have a wealthy British A-lister like Watson in her skank-pit." — David Edelstein, Vulture
"Emma Watson is sensational as Nicki, an underage club girl and actress wanna-be, who lives in a universe of Valley Girl narcissism eons away from Hogwarts. "I wanna rob," deadpans Nicki, a character based on Alexis Neiers, who negotiated her own E! reality show." — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
On Its Bigger Meaning:
While the film's critique of celebrity obsession is on the nose, many critics found that the story took a backseat to the social commentary. While we're excited to see a film take on celeb-worshipping culture, a Hollywood heist tale should be exciting viewing.
"Coppola’s appreciation for tales of youth and celebrity (Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, Somewhere) makes sense with this material. But the film — which Coppola wrote, based on a Vanity Fair article — is limited. The kids’ vampiric obsession with fame is of-the-moment, and maybe defines it, but comes up short as drama." — Joe Neumair, The N.Y. Daily News
"Ostensibly victimized by the thefts, Paris Hilton is apparently healed enough to contribute a cameo—and flattered enough to allow Coppola to film in what’s reportedly her actual home. The movie captures a moment when the lines separating anonymity, fame, and notoriety are finer than ever. And as Watson’s social climber prattles on to reporters about what a great 'learning lesson' her criminal experience has been, it’s easy to see another star in the making." — Ben Kenigsberg, The A.V. Club
"It could have been one of those ripped-from-the-headlines quickies you see on subpar cable. Instead, The Bling Ring plugs into the zeitgeist of trash culture and sparks like a live wire. Sofia Coppola's fact-based film about a crew of SoCal teens who started robbing the likes of Paris and LiLo (Hilton and Lohan, to the enviably uninitiated) in 2008 is up to more compelling business than pointing fingers and acting superior." — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
"Though on the surface “The Bling Ring” is slight of aim and repetitive of structure, it is actually a slam-dunk conservative critique of American culture: As if with a checklist at hand, Coppola hits the collapse in Judeo-Christian teaching, decaying educational standards, loose ethics, broken families, drugs, Hollywood and a permissive criminal justice system." — Kyle Smith, The New York Post