After spending 25 years charting excess in all its forms, photojournalist and ‘The Queen of Versailles’ director Lauren Greenfield has crafted a doc that lays bare society’s obsession with affluence and excess with scalpel-sharp insight.
Drawing on archive footage and photos, Greenfield argues that society is close to collapse, with the world’s 1 percent fiddling while Rome burns. Trump, Kim Kardashian and Greenfield’s own college tutor – financier and Hogarthian grotesque Florian Homm – all provide pertinent examples for her argument.
The filmmaker ponders the impact her career has had on her family, lending a potent intimacy to the conclusions she reaches. Her sons note their mother’s absences were something they came to accept, half-jokingly pointing out that ‘the damage has been done’.
Greenfield has often explored the relationship between wealth and beauty. She notes that the world’s wealthiest are often men, and as such they have been in a position of power to dictate beauty norms – often with horrifying consequences. A former porn star reveals in detail how fame and fortune led her to film her own suicide attempt. It makes for brutal viewing.
It also makes for bleak and compelling viewing. There’s a price for all this extravagance and rampant materialism, argues Greenfield. It could add up to our downfall.