'Generation Wealth' Is a Look at the Obscenely Rich 

If you want to know why people hate America, watch Lauren Greenfield's documentary.

click to enlarge Ilona at home with her four-year-old daughter, Michelle. - PHOTO BY LAUREN GREENFIELD (COURTESY OF AMAZON STUDIOS)
  • Photo by Lauren Greenfield (courtesy of Amazon Studios)
  • Ilona at home with her four-year-old daughter, Michelle.

Back in January of 1979, the cover of New Times magazine announced: "Decadence: The People's Choice." As it happened, that was the final issue of that particular publication (no relation to the company that once owned the Express). But the idea has been part of the cultural conversation ever since, particularly when it comes to the meaning of the word "crass." In the words of literary curmudgeon H.L. Mencken, no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

Between then and now, a small but significant segment of the population has gotten obscenely rich through various means, and they're driving the rest of us crazy. That's the urgent bulletin on the mind of filmmaker Lauren Greenfield's documentary Generation Wealth, less a diligent investigation of income inequality than a creepy carnival show of cackling freaks burning up money. If you really want to know why some people overseas hate and fear America, watch this movie.

To be fair, some of the rich folks held up for ridicule come from China and Russia as well as this country. But nothing quite registers like the sight of a hideously made-up little girl crowing about her desire for a room full of cash while her mother beams, or a Federalist Papers fan offering a justification for greed. Author-photographer-filmmaker Greenfield has made a career documenting the excesses of the nouveau riche. Her new doc doubles as a greatest-hits package, especially when it comes to the subjects of her 2012 film, The Queen of Versailles, who do their limited best to promote conspicuous consumption as a philosophy. Everybody has their reasons.

Is Greenfield gilding the lily? A lot of this has already been covered by Michael Moore. One of the saddest insights of the awkwardly titled Generation Wealth is the opinion of nightclub owner Lil Magic, who observes: "You gotta fake it till you make it." And so the poor go into debt for the bling-bling trappings they see all around them. That must be an unending source of merriment for certain people. The doc actually makes it to the 25-minute mark before showing a glimpse of Donald Trump's face — considering the cheapness of Greenfield's approach to sociology, that has to count as admirable restraint. Speaking of which, if you're tempted to buy a ticket to look at this cavalcade of easy grotesquery, restrain yourself. It's cheaper just to watch TV.

Generation Wealth
Rated R · 106 minutes · 2018
Official Site: www.generation-wealth.com
Director: Lauren Greenfield
Producer: Frank Evers and Lauren Greenfield

Now Playing

Generation Wealth is not showing in any theaters in the area.

What others are saying

  • Film Details


    Subscribe to this thread:

    Add a comment

    Anonymous and pseudonymous comments will be removed.

    Latest in Movie Review

    • Black Cinema

      Fifteen Black-themed films you should've already seen.
      • Jun 10, 2020
    • A Star is Bored

      Coming soon to a screen near you: your own Covid-19-themed horror feature
      • May 27, 2020
    • Crossing the Streams

      From the new releases everyone's talking about to the cult classics they should be, here are five things to stream and skip this week.
      • Apr 22, 2020
    • More »

    Author Archives

    Most Popular Stories

    Special Reports

    The Beer Issue 2020

    The Decade in Review

    The events and trends that shaped the Teens.

    Best of the East Bay


    © 2020 Telegraph Media    All Rights Reserved
    Powered by Foundation