Hermione uses her powers for evil.

Hermione uses her powers for evil.

Between 2008 and 2009, a group of L.A. teenagers burglarize the homes of celebrities the likes of Audrina Patridge and Megan Fox. Their tools: Google, poor security and unrestrained sense of entitlement. Their motivation: To be like them by stealing their clothes and jewels.

 The Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s fifth feature film, is a fascinating one. Francis’ daughter, known for her oft-kilter, “European” approach to filmmaking, treats her subjects as lab rats: Doesn’t judge them, but feels no compassion for them either. More than the break-ins, her attention focuses on the forces that lead a group of teenagers to behave so amorally (and idiotically: it’s like they have never seen CSI.)

 There are no clear protagonists in The Bling Ring. The presumed leaders of the group are Rebecca, a born manipulator, and Marc, a gay kid just happy to be included. Among the followers Nicki (a terrific Emma Watson) stands out, a model wannabe who believes fame is a goal onto itself, as most of her victims do. These teens honestly believe Lindsay Lohan is a role model.

 The film’s indictment of celebrity culture is spot on. Sure, the kids are impossibly vacuous, but they have been raised by Entertainment Tonight. It’s no surprise they covet Paris Hilton lifestyle (To Hilton’s credit, she lend the filmmaker her grandiose mansion to recreate the felonies.) In a fantastic scene, home-schooled, Adderall-addled Nicki is introduced to The Secret, the self-help book according to which all you need to accomplish your goals is positive thinking (education and hard work be damned). The scathing portrait of deluded and ineffective parents helps to understand the kids’ hedonistic instincts.

 Coppola breezy approach and compelling cast may give the target audience the wrong impression. The Bling Ring is too sophisticated to be a mere cautionary tale and it could easily be understood as a romp a la Project X. Celebrities, perhaps hiding the house keys under the front mat is not the best idea.

 Also a bad idea: Mixing leopard and zebra. Fashion’s biggest no-no since socks and sandals.

Three and a half fashionable-yet-flaky prairie dogs. (Now playing at Cineplex Southland Mall)