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Generation Wealth (2018)

Lionsgate
DVD Released: 10/16/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/26/2018

2012's The Queen of Versailles was a fascinating documentary. It focused on eccentric couple Jackie and David Siegel and their quest to build an extravagant mansion in Florida. The Siegel's excess, greed, and sheer ignorance made them a fascinating subject and while they were a train wreck, the movie was incredibly engaging, as we not only couldn't believe what we were hearing and seeing, we couldn't wait to see what happened next (and to see if they got their comeuppance.) Documentarian Lauren Greenfield, who helmed The Queen of Versailles, has now returned with Generation Wealth, a new project which promises to reveal more lifestyles of the rich and famous.

With Generation Wealth, Greenfield has delved into her personal archives of photo and put together a loose collection of projects which focused on the wealthy and ambitious. Starting with her early work which looked at rich kids in the Los Angeles area, the film allows her to re-examine these older pictures, and re-visit some of the subjects, including Paris Cronin, the son of REO Speedwagon singer Kevin Cronin, to see what they are up to today. Generation Wealth also offer modern-day profiles of several other individuals, including hedge fund managers, a porn actress, and a bus driver. These interviews allow the speakers to talk about their pursuit of wealth and how it effected their lives.

The amount of skill and work which goes into making can vary wildly from project to project. The Siegels were such an engrossing subject in The Queen of Versailles, one can't help but wonder if Greenfield had only to turn on the camera and let the story tell itself. That may not be far from the truth, as Generation Wealth falls far from the quality shown in that former documentary. With this new film, Greenfield has created a movie which diverts from its supposed purpose and plays more like a vanity project, as she constantly turns the camera on herself and her family. She divulges a great deal of information about her upbringing, focusing on her relationship with her mother. If she wanted to make a film about their interactions, that would be fine, but it feels oddly placed in this movie. Also, Greenfield proves to be incredibly tone deaf. We learn that both of her parents went to Harvard and that she went to Harvard and that she grew up in Venice, California. But, she didn't always fit in with the kids at her private school who lived in Brentwood. Most viewers are not going to be able to relate to this and no one is going to feel sorry for her.

As for the rest of the movie, it's a scattershot mess which never finds a truly coherent theme. The film's trailer implied that Generation Wealth would pull back the covers on modern excess and take us to places which most of us can't visit. And, again, coming from the director of The Queen of Versailles, this felt like a slam-dunk. But, the movie simply doesn't deliver. If you are looking for a peek inside, such as what we get with My Super Sweet Sixteen or Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, you'll be sorely disappointed. Some of the subjects talk about what they bought, but that's about it. The movie attempts to find a common theme amongst its subjects about what they did to get money and how it couldn't buy happiness. However, these ideas aren't explored fully and, again, it's very difficult to feel any sympathy for these people. The only subject which elicits any emotion is the bus-driver, and her story is so jumbled that it's difficult to follow.

In theory, making something like Generation Wealth should be easy. Find some rich people and document their lifestyles. Then, find some formerly rich people and ask them what went wrong. Greenfield clearly had this sort of idea in mind at some point, but her failure to scratch beneath the surface with her subjects leaves the viewer in the dark. She then further complicated things by making far too much of the film autobiographical. Greenfield never misses a chance to portray herself as a workaholic in these scenes, which is ironic, as Generation Wealth needed a lot more work in order to be satisfying.

(It should be noted that Generation Wealth is Rated R, as it contains quite a bit of nudity and some rather rough language from the adult film actress and some quick clips from her movies.)

Generation Wealth is a bad investment on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Being a documentary, there are a few different source materials here, with some of the archived footage showing some inherent flaws. The material created specifically for this movie looks fine, as it is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain or defects. The colors look natural, and the footage never suffers from being too dark or bright. The level of detail is good and the image is well-balanced. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Other than scenes from a nightclub, which features bass and surround-sound from music, the dialogue is the primary audio which we get here. The speakers are always clear, and subtitles are added when necessary.

The only extra feature on the Generation Wealth DVD is a gallery of additional photos from Greenfield, most of which were glimpsed in the film.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long