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Film Of The Week Beyond the dreams of avarice

ALAN FRANK recommends a razor-sharp dissection of the super-rich lifestyle

Generation Wealth (18)
Directed by Lauren Greenfield

DONALD TRUMP’S recent advice to Theresa May to sue the EU sums up the painful, all-too-true message of this fascinating documentary from acclaimed photographer and film-maker Lauren Greenfield.

In exposing the unprincipled truths that created the richest society the world has ever known, Greenfield melds stills with well-chosen archive footage and interviews, cleverly underlining the inherent venality of her subjects.

In so doing, she creates a compelling narrative exposing the conscienceless of the mostly American wealth-seekers but also fascinatingly takes us to Iceland, Russia and China where, memorably,  bizarre gold-plated toilets support the must-be wealthy.

Greenfield smartly quotes the film Wall Street with Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko stating: “I love money” and persuasively features, among others, the man who owns the world’s longest stretch limo, former porn star Kacey Jordan — given a five-figure tip by Charlie Sheen — a woman who ran into debt paying for image-improving plastic surgery and another who spent a fortune on a mere handbag.

We again meet Jackie and David Siegel, the focus of Greenfield's 2012 documentary The Queen of Versailles, who want to prove their value by building America’s largest home and we see a child beauty queen creepily exploited as a “diminutive adult.” And there's telling 25-year-old footage of spoiled Los Angeles brats from aspirant wealthy families at their Santa Monica school, including an already characteristically less-than-shy Kate Hudson.

“A big part of what I am looking at in the wealth phenomenon is the idea that we used to compare ourselves to people that we knew and would aspire to having what our neighbour had, and now we compare ourselves to the people we see on TV,” says Greenfield of her film. “Keeping up with the Joneses has become keeping up with the Kardashians.”

Despite some narrative wavering, she proves that thesis. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “What I’m looking at is how money often costs too much”.

 

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