It’s after sunset in Hollywood, and a gang of teenagers is burgling Paris Hilton’s villa using keys found right under her doormat.
“Look at all her Louboutins!” squeals one young felon at a dressing room stacked with bonbon-colored pumps.
Seven years after Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” got panned at the Cannes Film Festival, the director is back with “The Bling Ring.”
It’s based on the true story of half a dozen teenagers who, in 2008-9, filched $3 million in valuables from the homes of Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Megan Fox before being caught on security cameras.
“I thought it was an interesting story that said so much about our culture today,” said Coppola, wearing a chic retro outfit that the gang would have killed for. At a news conference, she said the teen-led celebrity heists “couldn’t have happened 10 years ago.”
“The Bling Ring” takes the viewer into myriad villas, including (with the owner’s permission) the real-life home of Hilton, whose face is on every living-room cushion.
The label-crazed kids make off with cash, Vuitton bags, designer shades and Rolex watches; at one point, their insouciant ring leader Rebecca (Katie Chang) even suggests they grab Hilton’s dog. The luxury loot is then worn or flogged off at bargain-basement prices.
“Bling Ring” isn’t of the caliber of “Lost in Translation” or “Somewhere,” because Coppola momentarily leaves her comfort zone -- slow, meditative moviemaking -- for a quick-flick style reflecting her subjects’ attention span.
The movie seems fickle at first, and the dialogue (“oh-my-God oh-my-God,” “awesome”) is flat, however closely it mirrors teen talk.
After a while, Coppola reverts to signature devices such as slow motion and distance filming -- including a remote shot, taken from a hilltop, of the kids pilfering a modernist house.
As a funny piece of social commentary, “Bling Ring” works well. The fame-famished kids are clearly less keen on owning things than on living, even briefly, the celebrity life.
Casting is fine, with “Harry Potter” heroine Emma Watson faking a California accent (though she over-acts in places). A special mention goes to the only boy in the lineup, Israel Broussard, whose conscience is slowly eroded by a desire to fit in. Rating: ***½.
Berenice Bejo -- the dancing ingenue who charmed Cannes in 2011 with her silent part in “The Artist” -- returns with an unexpected title: Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s follow-up to “A Separation” (winner of last year’s best-foreign-language Oscar).
“The Past” carries echoes of its predecessor: A couple meet to finalize their divorce. This time, though, the movie happens not in tumultuous Tehran, but in the sedate Paris suburbs -- in a ramshackle house near the rail tracks.
At a Cannes news conference, Farhadi was asked whether he was relieved to escape Iran’s state censorship system.
“I’ve lived outside my country for two years to make this film,” he said. “I can’t say I suddenly feel liberated or freer. I’m sure that I’ve assimilated many of these restrictions: They are a part of me.”
In “The Past,” Marie (Bejo) sets out to start a new life with her new man Samir (Tahar Rahim, star of “A Prophet”). Yet she’s tethered to her old life. She has residual feelings for her Iranian ex (Ali Mosaffa), and two daughters, including a teenager who can’t stand mom’s new boyfriend.
Samir has commitments of his own: a moping, curly-haired little boy named Fouad, and a hospitalized wife.
Farhadi’s message: The past is impossible to shake off. As in “A Separation,” the writer-director glosses nothing over. He films family life in all its crushing monotony, inside a dingy home. The result is realistic, yet drama is slow to kick in.
Farhadi’s skill with actors makes up for it. Though not a French speaker, he gets stellar performances out of Bejo, Rahim and every other cast member, including the kids. He ends with a poetic scene that, alone, is worth seeing the movie for.
The festival runs through May 26. Information: http://www.festival-cannes.fr/en.html
What the Stars Mean: ***** Excellent **** Very good *** Average ** Mediocre * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Farah Nayeri writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include George Walden and Craig Seligman on books, Warwick Thompson on London theater and Elin McCoy on wine.