Sofia Coppola makes vapid, insubstantial mood piece ambient films that are very lacking in character, story or dramatic purpose. She simply doesn't seem capable, or interested if you want to be kind, of telling a story with any narrative complexity. With this story she has found eventful subject matter that dovetails perfectly with her style. Her strengths (aimlessly hanging out with dull, listless people in moneyed, pampered environments) are what are needed for this story and her weaknesses (see above) are irrelevant.
Coppola shoots in her typical detached observing from a distance style. It gives the film a slight documentary look to it, no matter how stylised it looks. It's one of the few movies I've seen were I was so aware of the use of lighting. Her editing was more frequent than in some her other movies and the pace a lot less languid. The fact the plot has no great complexity doesn't matter too much as it's eventful with things constantly happening. The pace was fairly quick as everything earned its time on screen and it never lingered too long on any one moment. Also she has curbed her tendency to observe scenes from an unblinking, unedited distant camera angle while the subject does nothing of any real interest - her incredibly pointless Somewhere (2010) is almost all just one shot after another in this style.
That the female characters are mostly an indistinct herd and that we don't really get inside their heads is not an issue. It's a vapid, surface level world so the writer-director's style fits like a glove. I'm surprised the true main character was the guy in the group as all the publicity material suggested he would be in the background, and would barely utter more than a few words in total.
The wealth on display is rather sickening. There is no one in this film you can easily feel any sympathy for. The robbers are shallow idiots and the victims disgustingly corpulent consumers who can't even be bothered to lock their doors.
Overall it's a film of paddling pool depths with a dramatic punch that could be described as an indifferent shrug of the shoulders. The style complements the substance. The director was the perfect match.
It's worth noting that the film is often funny. The Emma Watson character is brilliantly shallow in her narcissistic pronouncements to the press.
My brother borrowed the disc. He watched half an hour (up to the second Paris Hilton house visit) and gave up. He said, `Does anything ever happen?' Not particularly is the answer, but by Sofia Coppola's standards this is a Hollywood blockbuster.
The extras are very good. The documentary on the real case is very interesting and the interview/house walkthrough with Paris Hilton is highly amusing (she lectures people on being fame obsessed as though she herself is above such matters).