I went yesterday to see an early showing of Generation Wealth as I wanted to take the day off and try to just be in the moment before I leave on holiday. That failed miserably as I started the day at a Country Museum breakfast, raced to the car rental to extend my rental and to the mall to get last minute things for my trip and then to this movie, all by 11:30 a.m.
When I acknowledged that I had not been feeling well and getting stressed about my upcoming trip I needed to remind myself that I am okay and have a good life despite my dissatisfaction about living in Nashville. So nothing says that more than seeing other people being unhappy!
I had only seen Queen of Versailles and had never bothered with Lauren Greenfield's other work, just the titles alone seemed to be about damaged women and that alone was a reason to avoid it. She seems to take great pleasure at showing women at their worst and glossing over the role of men in how that is either enabled or contributed to via their own lack of self image or perception. I felt that way when I read Roxanne Gay's, Difficult Women. I found that equally a tough read as if it is easier to depict women as horrific bots who do nothing but hurt themselves and everyone around them in pursuit of self gratification guised as self esteem. Generation Wealth is no different.
Disjointed and muddled the message was lost in between the need for Greenfield to find reasoning behind her own behaviors and of course blame her parents for her own obsession with her work and particularly her subject matter that dominates her work - women and the pursuit of money.
What the film is doing is follow up on her past subjects as she is editing a book of photographs that included them over the course of Greenfield's career. In this she seems to be examining why she is also obsessed with working in the same way her Mother was and this was in turn a self examination of her own youth and in turn a way to finally settle the scores with her ever smiling Mother and also subject. It was off putting and frankly something worth its own documentary that could be relegated to the Lifetime or Oxygen channel and not a film theater. The rest of this is a Netflix worthy documentary that if done properly with time allowed an opportunity to educate the film goers to who these people were, how she came to find them and in turn a follow up that clearly explains what has happened to them since they originally came before her camera. And some get that and in turn it is so thrown in at the end almost as if an afterthought while all showing some of them at her opening for the book Generation Wealth that she was kinda sorta editing in between filming and doing a therapy exercise.
Men are part of the story, but they are so cursory other than one man, a former hedge fund banker and criminal, whose coverage include his son and his girlfriend. Their insight observations about how his father has reconciled his greed, obsession with money and lack of engagement with his family as the most sincere and honest. Ms. Greenfield in her ever disjointed style finds her own narrator to her story- her own youngest son - who seems to realize that his mother is equally crazy and will one day be the subject of his own book I suspect called Legacy.
There are a few other profiles of men and they are clearly there as background and some apparent need to find gender balance as the intensity of her gaze is on the women. The Queen of Versailles makes an appearance but only as background to the Trump inauguration and again that is a story that is clearly in need of updating but is passed over for reasons unclear in this film. The most horrific is the bus driver whose zeal of plastic surgery led to her to homelessness and in turn the suicide of her daughter. Again a story that is missing so many elements of what happened there I felt much like this woman's daughter and in turn Greenfield's own sons, ignored and neglected. This is the true story of this documentary.
But the most horrific story was about the Porn Star who was a part of Charlie Sheen's meltdown a few years ago, a story now in the history of celebrity insanity but did give us #WINNING as an ever present hashtag that now has been corrupted by our own celebrity obsessed President. She was a girl clearly when this began and during filming she had taken on another identity (which by the end of the film was another and I suspect more to follow) and facing here 11th pregnancy. Again this is so glazed over I could not believe what I was seeing or hearing, including Greefield's presence during this young woman's infamous acclaimed Bukkake film. Now my knowledge of said type of pornography comes from Howard Stern who I quit listening to years ago just for this alone is sufficient reasoning but I never thought I would actually see this in life. I am not sure what to make of the men ( numbering over 50) who stood over a girl and masturbated on her face to the point she contracted Salmonella. It was so repulsive and disturbing I almost vomited and wanted to walk out but again Ms. Greenfield fails to even speak to the men about their role and why anyone would participate in this let alone watch again is a documentary worth seeing.
Then the visit to the strip club in Atlanta which to say the least does little to explain the racial issues that dominate and the exploitation of women where they are not just strippers but dance fully in the nude and often enables many of their customers to be the equivalent of a Gynecological exam. Clearly this is all part of #MeToo and #TimesUp and the debasement of women. But don't worry Ms. Greenfield will clearly do her part to ensure that women will be seen as the most fucked up and less redeemed subjects as her Mother too failed to find such at the end of that portion of the film.
The pursuit of wealth and fame are tangentially addressed by Chris Hedges the sole "expert" who appear in the film to provide a narrative and cautionary tale about the state of the world; Yes Ms Greenfield covers the world by passing a mention of China and Russia's growth and pursuit of wealth. There is the Icelandic fisherman/banker and the traveling European thief/banker, who seems to be connected to Ms. Greenfield via Harvard which is another issue about legacy and privilege. I am all for mocking Harvard but all of this is so thrown together that is nearly impossible to care about these individuals. Greenfield provide enough of a cursory glance that makes them interesting in their own right and deserve more which I would have enjoyed seeing, not as a comeuppance but as a reality check. Clearly Ms. Greenfield is like her mother as her mother excuses her own absences as they were short in duration and that is how I feel watching this film as if I am getting a glimpse but not enough of the person to matter or to know. Maybe that is the point of Generation Wealth that money is fleeting but infamy is long lasting if anyone is willing to turn their gaze upon them. And the one person obsessed with it seems less the subjects themselves but Ms. Greenfield.
Don't waste your money, your time or your gaze upon this travesty of a film. It is in need of an editor the same way Ms. Greenfield needs therapy. When I think of the phrase HOT MESS I will think of this film and the girl standing up after being massively ejaculated on and cleaning herself up and that is a vision I cannot forget. I am also going to need therapy.