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It’s a rich kid’s world in Generation Wealth

20 July, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Excess baggage: Generation Wealth

GENERATION WEALTH
Directed by Lauren Greenfield
Certificate 12a
☆☆☆

THIS feels like it should be the perfect film to be released when the POTUS has been in town: a consideration of the corrupting effects of the greed of a hyper-capitalist society, of how everything today is a commodity.

Photographer Lauren Greenfield starts with her childhood in California, looking at photographs of her age group and wondering what values the late 80s early 90s instilled in her generation.

Then she wonders whether the debauchery and consumption of the USA over the past 30 years is similar to the Egyptians building their Pyramids – a sign of excess that points to the collapse of an empire.

We follow Greenfield as she interviews a range of subjects, all extreme examples of decadence in the United States today.

It has an important message, but there is a problem at the heart of this film, and it detracts from Greenfield’s work.

First, the subjects chosen as examples of the corruption of the American dream are painted as such caricatures that you feel voyeuristic and snobby as they are taken to pieces. They have been portrayed with a lack of empathy or understanding. She calls on some thinkers to offer snippets of political discourse – what went wrong after the 1950s boom and the 1960s political awakening that gave us Reaganomics? – but this is skated over with little valued insight.

Then there is the self-satisfaction of Greenfield herself. The film has her (excellent) photography at its heart, but when she deconstructs her family relationships, it feels like a severe case of “humblebrag”.

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