It's a story that could only happen today. Entitled, pampered teens idolize entitled, pampered celebrities, and easily track their whereabouts by keeping an eye on gossip websites. ("Paris Hilton is at a party in Las Vegas tonight!" Ah, so that means she's not home...) The kids steal the celebs' stuff, then talk about it on Facebook, which is the non-celeb equivalent of TMZ. Eventually they get caught, which means they get famous -- which is all they ever really wanted in the first place.
The ringleader is Rebecca (Katie Chang), a reality-TV-obsessed girl who finds a kindred spirit in Marc (Israel Broussard), a semi-outcast who's just transferred to her alternative high school and is similarly interested in celebrity gossip and high fashion. They start by burglarizing the home of someone Marc knows, then advance to more noteworthy victims. They savor the opportunity not just to get some expensive trinkets and clothes, but to vicariously live the lives of the people they worship.
There's a certain lurid fascination in seeing head-shakingly misguided people wreck their lives, especially when it also lets us indulge in our national pastime of clucking at "kids these days." The Bling Ring isn't quite a satire of youthful hedonism, the toxicity of which is self-evident, but it is often funny in the way it reduces the vain teens to their basic, ugly elements.
All of this Coppola recreates dispassionately, without insight, though at least she's assembled a thumpin' soundtrack (Kanye West, M.I.A., Sleigh Bells, Frank Ocean, et al) to accompany it. Her smirking disapproval of the teens' actions and attitudes is clear enough -- to think she's portraying their scandalous lives as "glamorous" would be to miss the point entirely -- but that's all it is: disapproval. A closer examination of what makes the kids this way, or how it reflects on society as a whole, or the uncomfortable similarities some of us share with them, would have given the film some much-needed oomph.