Movie: Generation Wealth
My Rating: 4 stars
This is a really interesting film. It’s a documentary by Lauren Greenfield investigating what it is about American culture that encourages us to pursue money so single-mindedly. The documentary already looked pretty interesting on its own, but when I learned that Greenfield was the same director who brought us The Queen of Versailles, I was sold. That was the film about a time-share mogul, and the hideous mansion his family was building to look just like Versailles. I enjoyed the perverse humor of that film, watching an ex-beauty queen earnestly giving us a tour of her truly ugly home. And, I also respected the journalism. Not only does Lauren Greenfield show viewers the vulgar results of American culture run amok, but she also seeks to uncover the underlying causes.
This documentary focuses on individuals that Greenfield has been following and photographing over a number of years. We see the photos she took of her subjects over a decade ago when they were young and flaunting their possessions and physiques. And, we catch up with these individuals today as they give interviews about their lives back then, and talk about how their motivations have changed over the years. Greenfield does an amazing job of capturing raw emotion in her prints, whether it be happiness, ambition, or sadness. Really, a lot of the stories are a little more bitter than sweet. Much of the film’s tone focuses on individuals’ dogged pursuit of wealth and their confusion as to why they still feel so empty even after acquiring their status symbols. But fortunately, most of the interview subjects have gained some perspective over time, and understand themselves a lot better now. This kind of journalism makes the viewer feel a lot of empathy for other people. (Or, it made me feel that way, at least). And, as horrified as I was by some of the behavior documented in the film, I really valued the compassion it made me feel for humanity and all its foibles.
I highly recommend this film. It’s fascinating, and it provides viewers more than just a bit of cheap entertainment. Of course, it is very entertaining too. It’s fun to get a peek into the lives of very grand, delusional people (and deluded people striving to be very grand). But the film will also get you thinking and examining your life. That’s always a bonus.