This timely documentary about our cultural obsession with wealth comes the same week that Forbes declared Kylie Jenner a “self-made billionaire,” because words don’t matter nowadays. Only capital. And we don’t mean LIKE THIS.
That’s the argument posited by Lauren Greenfield, who follows a selection of real people – some of whom she’s revisiting from previous projects – all victims of a society sick with addiction, whether it’s money, work or plastic surgery; all extreme examples to illustrate the price of greed.
At the same time, she places herself in the film, fulfilling that old documentarian cliché: “The more I spoke to these people, the more of myself I began to see in them.” But the comparison doesn’t work because she presents her family as a happy, healthy unit, keeping their heads above a sea of toxicity.
At its best, Generation Wealth offers a strange, funny and frightening cultural critique of a capitalist empire in its hedonistic final days; a society in Calvin DeKlein. A perceptive photographer, Greenfield chooses images that bring to mind the body horror of the Soska Sisters’ American Mary or the apocalyptic imagery of David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis.
So what’s the cure? To value what is real; the people you love – another cliché, but worth repeating in an age where we’re bombarded with fake images in every aspect of the media; fake lifestyles, fake sex, fake presidents.
Intriguing if slightly contrived, Generation Wealth is an ambitious treatise on the price of greed, and a welcome reminder that chasing the unattainable is a one-way ticket to glum village. It’s like William DeVaughn said: “Just be thankful for what you got. Even if everyone does think you’re Curtis Mayfield.”