Money can be a tricky thing: Despite nearly everyone's professing of the want of more of it, those that have it do not experience the seemingly requisite happiness or contentment. As a subject in this documentary says: "If you believe money can buy happiness, you obviously have never had money!". Everyone believes they can be the exception to the rule, but the results seem to indicate otherwise.
"Generation Wealth" is, at its core, a personal project from photojournalist/director Lauren Greenfield. She basically turned her camera lens toward the affluent around the world (we visit China, Russia, Europe, along with the U.S.), shot as many pics as possible, and then looked to see what interesting conclusions might be drawn from the experience.
For some reason, "Generation Wealth" receives very poor ratings from the critics, and I think I know the crux of the reason why: this is a very expansive, far-reaching documentary that severely lacks a thesis. Though the production value is very high, it lacks a true goal or thesis, instead throwing a bunch of wealth-related ideas out for thought and just letting them "sit there", so to speak.
The reason for this lack of coherent subject or purpose? In many respects, this is as much a personal journey for Greenfield, who grew up in the affluent LA suburbs and thus has a very personal stake in the entire discussion. Her relationships (documented on camera) with her own parents and immediate family/children bring an emotional punch to the doc that is much-appreciated (at least by this viewer). It's one thing to see how wealth affects the richest of Wall Street traders or international business tycoons. It's another to see how it can creep into day-to-day life of the "average" folk as well.
Usually, I would criticize a doc like this one for lacking any sort of primary focus or goal to accomplish, but I think "Generation Wealth" is the rare piece that works in spite of (if not in some ways because of) its non-proselytizing ways. It is indeed "all over the place", but all the different avenues it turns down lead to productive highways instead of dead-ends. Add in the emotional Greenfield angle and it covers all the bases.
Because of the ratings, I had very low expectations coming into "Generation Wealth", but found myself riveted from the opening salvo to the closing credits. If you are a fan of social documentaries or the topic of wealth in general, you'll find something to enjoy here.
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