Year Released: 2003
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 75 minutes
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If you don’t already hate most rich people you will after seeing “Born Rich”. When Jamie Johnson (director) refers to “rich” he doesn’t mean the girl in high school who had the huge Louis Vuitton purse and spring break parties at her parent’s beach house, or even most of the people showing off on MTV’s “Cribs”. The kind of rich that Johnson is talking about is the kind that own Grand Central Station and The Whitney Museum; they possess islands and cities not just houses and yachts (though they have those too). Just think of the difference that their gardening budget alone could make in the average persons life and you’ll get a little nauseous. The supposed purpose of “Born Rich” is to “demystify the voodoo of inherited wealth”, whatever that means. Basically, Johnson attempted to get a bunch of disgustingly rich by birth, young people to talk about a subject that they normally avoid and think is tacky to discuss: money. He managed to round up interviews with Ivanka Trump (real-estate heiress), Luke Weill (gaming industry heir), Cody Franchetti (textile heir), S.I. Newhouse IV (publishing heir) and Georgianna Bloomberg (media heiress), to name a few. They all also happen to be Johnson’s friends, proving again that money can also get you connections to sellable film topics. The major downfall of “Born Rich” is that, while it is for some reason strangely interesting to watch and many of the interviewees are frank, it doesn’t communicate any real message or conclusion or even anything truly newsworthy. In case Johnson didn’t realize, the majority of the rest of the world already knows that rich kids pay their way through college, drink heavily, do a lot of drugs and constantly complain that no one else understands all the horrible problems that come with wealth. Another newsflash for Johnson, the rest of the world also have issues with their parents, it’s a universal concern that isn’t limited solely to the bourgeois.
The biggest asshole in the film is by far Luke Weill, at times it is literally difficult to listen to him talk about prenuptial agreements and buying and selling people in a blatantly cocky, obnoxious (almost to the point of seeming violent) and sexist manner. As is briefly covered in the film, in an effort to keep the rest of the world from knowing what a complete jerk he is, Weill attempted to sue his friend (Johnson) to prevent his image from being used in the documentary. Once you’ve seen the movie you won’t blame him for trying. Coming in second for the asshole award is Cody Franchetti who is arrogant and condescending beyond comprehension. His shining moment is his critique of Bill Clinton’s wardrobe. The rest of the interview crew are basically what you would expect; a bit aloof and not very enlightening. S.I. Newhouse IV does, surprisingly, come across as the most sympathetic, but it in the end it just isn’t easy to find compassion for people who are so rich that the amount of money they spend on clothes alone would feed a small country for decades (perhaps that is Johnson’s point). Beware of the section in the film that shows the obligatory party in the Hamptons, it’s so gross that all of us lowly proletariat are forced to put down the bag of Cheetos and the Big Gulp and fight a horrible wave of nausea. If the point of the movie is to emphasize the fact that the young and super rich are completely out of touch with reality and complain way too much, then the film is a complete success.
Considering the money behind the documentary, it is surprising that the quality isn’t better. Though the production is average, it’s not outstanding and the film contains way too many unmotivated jump cuts. I did give “Born Rich” three stars because, despite it’s vapid content, the damn thing is hard to take your eyes off of, plus I felt that being generous was particularly appropriate in this case. Maybe it’s human nature, but there is something intriguing about watching shallow people act like assholes and, as a nation obsessed with wealth, I guess it’s no surprise that the film does have a particular allure. By the way, anyone who would like to relieve themselves of the horrible problem of being way too rich please get in touch with me, I’ll be happy to take any or all of your problem off your hands. “Born Rich” is a decent and strangely engaging documentary, but not an important one.
Posted on January 1, 2005 in Reviews by Rachel Morgan
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