‘I noticed that, no matter how much people had, they still wanted more.’
Photographer Lauren Greenfield has spent decades, her entire career, taking photos of various projects – never fully realising how linked they all were. Each of those projects linked to wealth – the celebration of it, the search for it, the joy it can bring, the destruction it’s absence and it’s presence can cause. This documentary is amalgamation of all those projects, a retrospective and deeper dive into what has gone before.
It doesn’t make for pretty watching.
In fact, tt would be easy to leave a screening of this documentary and think ‘I don’t want to live in this world anymore.’
Greenfield’s last documentary, the incredible and absolute must-see Queen Of Versailles (2012) focused on Florida billionaires David and Jackie Siegel when the 2008 global economic crisis threatened their fortune just as they were in the middle of building a 90,000 square-foot estate. it begins as a form of bling porn, baring witnesses to their audacious spending habits and far-removed from the rest of the world bubble they resided in. The film then descends into something else as their financial status becomes increasingly precarious; it becomes bitterly sad and haunting.
Now, imagine that on a bigger scale. Imagine that with more people, more families and lives being derailed due to money and our craving more & more of it. That’s what Generation Wealth is. It makes for painful watching. We meet a whole spectrum of people in hugely varying circumstances, very rarely are they anything that can be deemed ‘good’ and certainly not enviable. There’s the single mother whose desperate pursuit of plastic surgery destroyed her family. The porn star who got swept into Charlie Sheen’s circle and was hounded by the media. The morally ambiguous hedge fund manager living in exile. The rock star’s son who had everything and yet nothing.
It’s not an easy watch. For the cynics amongst us it will feel the epitome of anti-capitalist ideology; evidence – were it truly needed – at just how warped our financial system is; that we are just a few steps away from armageddon. The empaths amongst us will feel haunted by these various tales of the horrific and absurd, to the extent they’ll feel numb and hopeless. It may be telling us things we already know; that money can corrupt and the pursuit of wealth other than personal or emotional is vapid and senseless – but that doesn’t make what is being said any less unsettling.
Most of us may know that greed is not good. Seeing this will serve as a real reminder, were it truly needed.
Generation Wealth is in selected UK cinemas now.