Writer and Director Lauren Greenfield is all over the place with
her poignant documentary about our cultural excesses.
She jumps from one topic to the next like she has some attention
deficit disorder, or like she's taken all this footage and by golly, she's
determined to show it to us.
She had chronicled some Hollywood teenagers some 22 years ago, and
in their follow-up interviews they seem like, well, ordinary middle-aged
people. It's hardly news that
in our forties we shake our heads at how we were as adolescents.
But Ms. Greenfield is trying to make the point that we all
contribute to the group pathology of covetousness.
Topless dancers on their hands and knees for the dollar bills.
Jailed money market managers telling us how the temporary wealth
wasn't worth it. Aging porn
stars returning to minimum wage jobs as cashiers, but they've recovered
some of their self-respect. Women
who have spent their life savings on cosmetic surgery that actually
detracts from their appearance. A
tearful man caught in the 2008 financial crisis as he faces foreclosure on
his home. The mother who spent
a small fortune entering her six-year-old in beauty contests, complete
with makeup, hair, and wardrobe, but now that the kid is a chubby
11-year-old, no more pageants. There
are photos of Kim Kardashian and Kate Hudson at 12 years old (implying
that they are the icons we chase), but no interviews from them.
It's mostly about the people who have chased the elusive American
Dream to their detriment. And
caused pain to themselves and those around them.
Interestingly, Ms. Greenfield does not exampt herself from
scrutiny. She puts her mother
and father on camera (separately, because they are long since divorced),
as well as her husband and both of her sons, one of whom asks her to
please stop filming him, and the other speaks quite frankly about how hard
it is to live up to the standards of his older sibling (who got a perfect
score on his ACT test). Ms. Greenfield, after letting us know that she and
her husband and her parents all went to Harvard, will herself admit to
being a “workaholic,” which may be in the general category of
behavioral excess, but certainly is less ruinous than all the other
addictions she so assiduously chronicles.
Is she speaking the truth? Yes.
Though she paints a bleak picture of our seamy underside.
Does she do so in a respectful fashion?
Well, let's say her goal was not to make everybody look noble and
unselfish. And what was the
point of including footage of Donald Trump during the 2016 Presidential
campaign? Condemnation by
association? You'll have to
ask her that yourself.
“Generation Wealth” is neither sweet nor inspiring, but it does
hold up a grimy mirror to a self-obssessed culture that appears to be in
its final stages of entropy.