The opening of The Beguiled is lush on every level: Mist hangs in the moss-draped trees as a young girl goes out mushroom-picking, her singing underscored by an uncanny low rumble. We’re in the Civil War South, so that rumble must be battle, a muffled sound that barely intrudes on the idyllic scene. This is director Sofia Coppola in signature mode, creating voluptuous sights and sounds that disguise a serious deficiency of ideas. The Beguiled may be the most inert of Coppola’s films, a vapid cruise through an isolated hothouse. Along with its other shortcomings, it’s not nearly as interesting (and nowhere near as perverse) as the 1971 film that precedes it, directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood.
If we lived in the days when directors cranked out a couple of titles a year—or even one per annum—then it might be less dispiriting to report that The Bling Ring is Sofia Coppola’s latest movie. But Coppola has made just three features since Lost in Translation, her 2003 breakthrough, poking along through the period frou-frou of Marie Antoinette and the art-movie lethargy of Somewhere. She’s in her early 40s now, and somehow ought to be past The Bling Ring.
But here it is. And it’s not a terrible movie, exactly. It’s even fun at times. Certainly the real-life case of teenagers who robbed the houses of L.A.’s most vacuous stars must have sounded ripe for a satirical spin around the block. The youthful thieves went on their spree in 2008–09, and their targets included Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Orlando Bloom. One senses Coppola’s interest is especially piqued by the inanity of these victims: The robbers couldn’t even pick cool dumb celebrities, just dumb dumb celebrities.