VOD film review: Generation Wealth
James R | On 20, Jul 2018
Director: Lauren Greenfield
Cast: Lauren Greenfield, Limo Bob, Florian Homm, Tiffany Masters
Watch Generation Wealth online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Read our interview with director Lauren Greenfield here.
With The Queen of Versailles, Lauren Greenfield cemented her position as a filmmaker with an astute understanding of our greed-filled modern culture. Generation Wealth steps back to look at her 25 years of similar work and ties them all together with a similar thread.
It’s no small undertaking, which works both for and against the movie. Part personal retrospective and part film essay, Greenfield includes herself in the narrative, as, not unlike Alex Gibney’s The Armstrong Lie and Bryan Fogel’s Icarus, she finds herself intrinsically linked to the story being told and the issues being raised. The result is a meditation on the way that the world has changed in the last quarter of a century, but also how money, commercialisation, commodification and materialism have seeped into every aspect of our lives, from gender and body image to work-life balance and social inequality.
Status and superficial value trump self-worth and emotional wealth every time, the film argues, and the archive footage is there to prove it, not just in the rise of a reality TV star President but also in the everyday lives of the rich teenagers who grew up in a nearby LA school (including Kim Kardashian), in the family of the former hedge fund manager Greenfield once interviewed, and in the struggle of models and party hosts who both chase and reinforce the notion that having money is everything. Greenfield doesn’t excuse herself from that cultural corruption, gently comparing herself to everyone from that now-exiled trader and even a workaholic Wall Streeter. The only disappointment is that the conclusions drawn from these comparisons aren’t anything that shocking – in a similar way to Trump’s effect on satire, the world has so grotesquely transformed in such an unsubtle way that the boom-bust nature of society is already garishly obvious.
And yet that, of course, is partly the problem. Unfortunately, it’s a problem that was skewered so superbly, and more succintly, in The Queen of Versailles, as we watched the Siegels (a timeshare tycoon and beauty queen) try to build their own version of the French palace, until the financial crisis left their monstrous American Dream unfinished. This is a much bigger canvas on which Greenfield paints, and not every brush stroke has the greatest clarity, but the occasionally wayward structure allows for a portrait of privilege and aspiration that is not surprising in its findings but is dizzying in its wide-reaching scale – a cautionary mirror held up to the world that will leave you asking questions about your own life and priorities.
Generation Wealth is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.