Anytime the wealth of a celebrity or business leader is disclosed, the internet explodes with hot takes about money, ownership and excess.
Coming along as though special-ordered by the culture wars is the new documentary, “Generation Wealth.”
It is directed by photographer/filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, who has spent her career chronicling money and excess.
Greenfield takes the audience through the story of her career, interviewing family members to provide insight into her motivations. She also interviews individuals she’s photographed in the past — from the mom of one of the stars of “Toddlers and Tiaras” to a ’90s wannabe rapper — to see how the desire for money and fame have shaped their lives.
She also throws in interviews with people such as author Brett Easton Ellis and journalist Chris Hedges, who talk at a remove about wealth culture.
Traveling across the world for her interviews is exhausting, but Greenfield admitted she is as hungry, metaphorically, as the people she documents.
“The fact that I had everything I needed [growing up] and still didn’t feel like I had enough,” she said, “made me want to figure out why.”
Greenfield grew up less wealthy than many of her L.A. peers, but did attend a tony, exclusive school for a two years. A few years after getting a degree in visual anthropology from Harvard, she returned to her old school to document the lives of wealthy teenagers, resulting in the powerful 1997 book, “Fast Forward: Growing Up in the Shadow of Hollywood.”
Her successful 2012 documentary, “The Queen of Versailles,” told the story of David and Jackie Siegal, who were then building the largest single-family home in the U.S. We see the Siegals again here, and it will gratify longtime Greenfield followers that there are plenty of chances to catch up with people we’ve wondered about — starting with the now-middle-aged subjects of “Fast Forward.”
Journalist Hedges is responsible for many of the film’s keenest overarching observations, noting the way the American dream has shifted from hard work and frugality to fame and fortune. It used to be we were keeping up with the Joneses, Greenfield noted. Now we’re trying to keep up with the Kardashians. JN
‘Generation Wealth’ is playing at Harkins Shea 14 in Scottsdale. The article was originally published in the Jewish Exponent, a Jewish News-affiliated publication.