Life Costs: Our Review of ‘Generation Wealth’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - July 27, 2018
Life Costs: Our Review of ‘Generation Wealth’

“Greed Is Good”…but really only to a point…

In what is the culmination of a multi media project/exhibition/book from filmmaker and photographer Lauren Greenfield; Generation Wealth in many ways is the cherry on top of her entire career as she not only dives into the global need for excess and how it’s toxic on so many fronts but also by turning the camera in on herself to see how her obsessions and need for more have taken a toll on her career and family life over the past years in a way that plays on an almost genetic level of human dysfunction that we are only slowly beginning to stem the tide on.

For the past 25 years acclaimed photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield (The Queen of Versailles, Thin, kids+money, #likeagirl) has travelled the world, documenting with ethnographic precision and an artist’s sensitivity a vast range of cultural movements and moments. Yet, after so much seeking and searching, she realized that much of her work pointed at one uniting phenomenon: wealth culture. With her new film, Generation Wealth, she puts the pieces of her life’s work together for in an incendiary investigation into the pathologies that have created the richest society the world has ever seen. Spanning consumerism, beauty, gender, body commodification, aging and more, Greenfield has created a comprehensive cautionary tale about a culture heading straight for the cliff’s edge. Generation Wealth, simultaneously a deeply personal journey, rigorous historical essay, and raucously entertaining expose, bears witness to the global boom-bust economy, the corrupted American Dream and the human costs of capitalism, narcissism and greed.

It’s a hard yet poignant and relevant eye that Greenfield shines on this topic having spent a quarter of a century of her life looking at it and it allows us some pretty interesting takes even while she unnecessarily tries to shoehorn her own experiences which while relevant are nearly as fascinating as some of the extremes that she shows us.

Unlike some of her other work, she’s now an actual player in her own narrative and while it’s relevant for her to be based on the type of story she’s trying to tell, it just doesn’t always work when the filmmaker/storyteller is also a subject in the narrative she wants to get across.

The desire for ‘more’ and the need to flaunt ‘excess’ as a social status is perversely embedded in our society but it so rarely leads in actual happiness as our subjects show us, but it’s such a personal journey that it doesn’t go down the rabbit hole of personal ruin nearly as often as you might expect.

Tying itself in rather neatly with the current political climate down in America but is still fairly pervasive on a global scale, she successfully highlights both the highs and the lows of living a life where the only substance you trade in is wealth or power and how the capitalist system does have some very exploitable and incredibly toxic flaws but she takes it down to the individual and how important it is to take stock of their own lives in this whole equation.  To an extent, people even view themselves as a commodity with value and if it’s not the value that they preserve to having any kind of importance then it sends them spiraling down some pretty ugly rabbit holes of despair, depression and the quick fix coping mechanisms available to the wealthy that can ultimately lead to their own destruction.

Greenfield for the most part allows her subjects to either get to the point that the flashy life of excess while pretty, doesn’t provide the emotional substance that we need to survive, and while it doesn’t all play out toxically (even as she looks at her own life and her relationship with her parents and kids that often take a back seat to her career) the film shows us that a lack of balance or obsession with one given thing is never ever healthy.

Ultimately, while not her strongest film, Generation Wealth puts a nice bow on a subject that she has successfully been exploring for decades with the very simple reminder that finding that balance and looking for a little bit of moderation in the middle grounds of all of our lives isn’t necessarily a bad thing.


This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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