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Posts Tagged ‘“Generation Wealth”’

Disgraced hedge fund manager Florian Homm

“GENERATION  WEALTH”  My rating: C

106 minutes | MPAA rating: R

As Bruce Springsteen so astutely observed:

Poor man wanna be rich

Rich man wanna be king

And a king ain’t satisfied ’til he rules everything.

“Generation Wealth” finds photojournalist Lauren Greenfield taking on America’s obsession with wealth. As you might guess, she doesn’t think this is a good thing.

One of her subjects describes contemporary Americans as “hamsters in a diamond-studded gold wheel.”

Greenfield has some experience in this subject, having had an arthouse hit with “The Queen of Versailles,” her 2012 doc about a Florida condo king and his wife attempting (and failing) to build the USA’s biggest private residence.

“…Wealth” starts out promisingly enough.  In narration Greenfield describes her own upbringing in Los Angeles and her education in a posh private school. She announces that she’s going to interview her old classmates to see how they’re getting on as adults after being raised in an environment where 8th graders routinely carried $100 bills for lunch money.

Rather quickly, it appears, she realized these folk didn’t have a whole lot of interesting things to say. (“You want people to look at you. It’s about power.”) So “Generation Wealth” casts its net wider, going after topics as diverse as crazed careerism, the obsession of many women with designer handbags,  a woman who put off having a child and now is spending a fortune on medical procedures that will help her get pregnant.

Bret Easton Ellis, whose novels often deal with cultural narcissism, talks about cultural narcissism.

Fairly early on “Generation Wealth” takes a throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach.  Whatever game plan Greenfield had going into the project is abandoned. The result is an unorganized hodgepodge of ideas and impressions.

Even so, the film has some fascinating things. Like Florian Homm, a Harvard classmate of Greenfield’s who spent years as a ruthless hedge fund manager and now lives in Germany where he can avoid extradition to the U.S.  While smoking a big fat stogie Homm sits back in a fancy settee and rails against a society that places wealth above all other values.

But one has to wonder if Homm’s newfound disdain for greed isn’t almost exclusively the result of being indicted for security fraud. A subsequent interview with his adult son suggests that Dad simply may be good at covering his ass. (Home is such a fascinating/repellant figure you wish the film had been just about him.)

Greenfield takes a moment to consider the Kardashian effect (wealth and fame with no visible talent). We meed a recent Chinese millionaire who lives in a full-size reproduction of the White House and looks out his window to see a manmade Mt. Rushmore.  Russian oligarchs whose homes have vast libraries of volumes that no one is allowed to touch, much less crack open and read.

The “pornificiation” of American culture is touched upon. We meet an adult film actress and follow women who spend every cent they can borrow on plastic surgery. A participant in kiddie beauty pageants.

And at some point the film becomes Greenfield’s own story. She interviews her high school-age son, who reduces her to tears by finally expressing his  resentment that her journalism career made her an absentee parent.

“We’re dying in the same ways other civilizations have died throughout history,” says one talking head. “The difference is when we go down we take the planet with us.”

An interesting and troubling thought. Wish the rest of the film carried that sort of punch.

| Robert W. Butler

 

 

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