In her new documentary feature Generation Wealth, acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield (The Queen Of Versailles, Thin, Kids+ Money) investigates the recent pathologies that have created a society obsessed with wealth and popularity in one of the richest civilisations the world has ever seen. Using her own experiences of growing up as a shy middle class Jewish kid born to academic parents, Greenfield tackles the idea of excessive wealth and its effects on society by taking on ideas relating to consumerism, beauty and body commodification in a world where popularity and money have come to symbolise absolute power and success.
Approaching the subject matter from a very personal standpoint, Greenfield takes us back right to the beginning of her own existence, with her birth, childhood and the divorce of her parents. Later on we are invited to revisit some of her earlier work, namely a series of photographs taken in the 90s which featured a group of rich kids from one of LA’s most exclusive schools where children of actors, directors and rock stars lived a hedonistic lifestyle without a care in the world or a thought for those who had less than them.
Greenfield also offers a hugely compelling and frank interview with fellow Harvard graduate, the infamous disgraced former billionaire Florian Homm. Homm, whose apparent magnetism makes up the crux of the story, offers some brilliant one-liners and a wonderfully self-deprecating account of his days as one of the richest men in the world before losing it all and ending up in an Italian prison.
Elsewhere, we are introduced to a working class woman whose obsession with plastic surgery cost her everything, a former porn star who was at one time associated with Charlie Sheen, and a child beauty queen whose mother’s obsession with money and fame turned both of them into hate figures. We are also treated to a brilliant talking head interview courtesy of writer Bret Easton Ellis who offers some truly insightful opinions on the subject of excessive wealth.
While Greenfield should be commended for attempting to offer a comprehensive study of the current trend for chasing clout and money at any cost, sadly the director is ultimately let down by her own inability to stick to just one thread. Cramming way too many themes into a narrative which could have just as well worked with a handful of subject, the film suffers greatly from its aimless and rather confused subject matter.
While the presence of Easton Ellis gives Generation Wealth a certain amount of gravitas, the rest of film which concentrates on Greenfield’s own children and home life simply falls flat and tends to resort to predictable tropes and ends feeling rather disingenuous in parts.