Here's a funny story. Well not really. A while ago the documentarian Lauren Greenfield made a short doc called KIDS+MONEY and I reviewed it on this site. The post got insane numbers of hits. Disproportionate to any other post. And when I looked at the stats of how people were coming to that post, let's just say they were evil evil people. I took the post down. Her doc had nothing to do with what they were looking for, but it was disturbing in its own way. Because it showed just how far young kids were becoming materialistic and money obsessed - superficial and blighted by a hunger for wealth that could never be satiated.
A while later I reviewed Lauren Greenfield's 2012 doc THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES. The subject was the same - about the insidious corruption of greed. But in this case it focussed on a rich couple building a gargantuan mansion in Florida on the eve of the Global Financial Crisis. I can never remember the wife getting into her limo and taking her kids to a McDonald's drive-thru. Because they should grow up in a massive mansion but with no actual care or attention.
So now we come to her next feature length doc - GENERATION WEALTH - which continues and expands upon these themes. Following up on interview subjects she met when teens in Hollywood and trying to examine the impact that extreme wealth has on kids' sense of self and morality. She puts herself in that same cohort - she is after a private school kid, layering on her training as an anthropologist, in order to make sense of her childhood. With shocking vulnerability, she admits to feeling sensitive about not being able to afford fancy clothes, or being dropped a block away from home because she was ashamed of it.
I've seen some interviewers object to this personalisation but I found it really fascinating both of itself here and as context for her career. I found the scattershot organisation of the film far more frustrating. It's as though the film is a series of individually quite interesting ten minute segments, but all thrown in the air and assembled in no particular order. I felt very strongly having watched this that it needed a lot more context from expert talking heads explaining the phenomena rather than just showing lots of different superficial people. We just needed a few social anthropologists and critical theories to talk more about the influence of TV and social media, and political and financial analysis. And I mean actual financial analysis rather than from some German monetarist on the run.
GENERATION WEALTH has a running time of 106 minutes and is rated R. It played Sundance and SXSW 2018 and was released in the USA and UK this July in cinemas and on streaming services. In the UK you can watch it on Sky and Curzon Home Cinema, for example.
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