Saturday, July 28, 2018

Lauren Greenfield's documentary, GENERATION WEALTH, opens in South Florida

What a bizarre (but still somewhat absorbing) misfire is the new documentary, GENERATION WEALTH, written, directed and produced by Lauren Greenfield, shown below, who back in 2012 gave us another oddball, interesting and not entirely successful doc, The Queen of Versailles. The movie begins as some kind of warning/exploration about how our society is worshiping/pursuing the almighty dollar to the point of no return. Early on, we view an Asian ESL teacher making sure her clients learns the really important words: Louis Vuitton, Lanvin, Hermès and so on.

Then we meet a few of these "pursuers," including a couple of workaholic hedge-fund managers, one of whom eventually goes to prison.

Tossed in with all this is also a school-bus driver who travels to Brazil to get some major plastic surgery, a stage mother and her single-digit daughter intent on finding fame via beauty contests and maybe a reality TV show, and finally Ms Greenfield herself, along with her mother, husband, children and all their stories.

Focus is clearly not Greenfield's strong suit, and before long the viewer may be wondering whether the movie's title ought not have been Generation Workaholic (which would include both Greenfield and her mom), or maybe Generation Addiction (which could include just about everyone covered in this documentary, as each is addicted to something). We even get a small recap of the husband/wife who were the subjects of The Queen of Versailles.

Greenfield's movie is simply all over the place in terms of locale, subject matter, characters, and themes. Had she concentrated more firmly on any one of these, she might have been able to put together a cogent piece of agitprop. Instead the focus keeps shifting and slipping to the point that you may want to grab her script and take a red pencil to about half of it.

The way that Greenfield and her friends and family keep popping into the narrative is almost embarrassing. Had she made a film about this subject only -- her own sense of partial abandonment by her mother and the effect that has had on her life and that of her own family -- she might have had a subject worth tackling. (Her mom, who keeps smiling throughout, clearly would prefer not to think about nor admit to past mistakes.)

And for all Greenfield's would-be concentration on wealth and greed, this is hardly news to anyone who follows cultural/economic trends. Ditto the need for too much body enhancing surgery. And/or the quest for fame. By opting to cover so much by using so many, she weakens her theses and manages to give us both too much and too little at the same time.

Pornography even gets it due via ex-porn star Kacey Jordan, and we view a Bar Mitzvah complete with go-go dancer/strippers but by the end of this overlong documentary, nothing we hear or see registers as either original or even remotely bracing. I would say that Greenfield needed a better editor, but four of them are listed in the credits. I guess it really is the focus here that is most out of whack. I wish Ms Greenfield better luck next time.

An Amazon Studios Release and running 109 minutes, Generation Wealth -- after opening in our major cultural capitals a couple of weeks back -- hits South Florida this coming Friday, August 3. In Miami, it will play the Regal South Beach 18, AMC Aventura, and AMC Sunset Place. In Boca Raton, look for it at the Regal Shadowood.

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