Sofia Coppola’s tale of spoiled teens on a crime rampage in the Hollywood Hills has kicked off Cannes’ Un Certain Regard – an alternative to the main competition which some see as the true soul of the festival, but others deride for its focus on the obscure and the difficult.

The film is based on a true story, as told in a Vanity Fair article of 2010, The Suspects Wore Laboutins. It follows a group of young people who use social media to track the whereabouts of their celebrity victims, then raid their houses for designer clothes and luxury goods.

Early reviews of today’s gala screening ranged from lukewarm to broadly positive.

Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian writes that Sophia Coppola’s movies “have been in danger of becoming gritless oysters of non-satire, lenient insider studies, offering celluloid hugs to the cossetted comfortable.

“But her new film… is an interesting surprise. There is something in her unjudging approach that is unexpectedly appropriate – and effective. It lets her get up close and personal to the story and characters, which conventional irony… wouldn't get near.”

But the Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy saw the worst of Bradshaw’s fears realised.

“Coppola’s attitude toward her subject seems equivocal, uncertain; there is perhaps a smidgen of social commentary, but she seems far too at home in the world she depicts to offer a rewarding critique of it. At the same time, she’s too unemphatic a filmmaker to deliver what could be construed as an exposé from the belly of the beast. It’s more like a teasing, mildly titillating pulling-down-the-covers off some naughty but hardly grave adolescent behavior.”

Several critics singled out an impressive performance from Emma Watson. Cath Clarke of Time Out London writes: “Much creepy attention has been lavished on photos doing the rounds of Emma Watson pole dancing (Hermione’s legal!)… But the real story here isn’t the good-girl-goes-bad stunt casting; it’s that Watson can act. Against the odds, the Harry Potter star gives a sharp, knowing smart performance.”

And the film’s cinematographers Harris Savides and Christopher Blauvelt drew praise too."The Bling Ring looks great,” writes Total Film’s Jamie Graham,  “and is fun while it lasts.

“But is ultimately not a great deal more profound than the celebrity culture it holds accountable for these wanton waifs."

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