Born Rich

Shout! Factory, $19.98

SOAK THE RICH goes the Kerry tax proposal to expand health insurance, while Bush responds that we need to cut taxes on the high end to promote overall economic growth. So which one of these two rich guys is a traitor to his class? This Sundance documentary (on disc Oct. 5), which aired on HBO last year, provides a limited look behind the manor gates, reflecting the views of several young trust-funders including director Jamie Johnson (heir to Johnson & Johnson millions). A 21-year-old NYU student relating his own "personal coming-of-age story" as he's about to receive his inheritance, Johnson is at pains to present his peers in a mostly favorable light. But he also knows enough to let the camera run as some interviewees hang themselves with their own words. Some are sincere, likable, and relatively unaffected; others are—no surprise—pretentious, callow idlers.

Determined to get others to talk about "this voodoo of inherited wealth . . . this big taboo," the director elicits tales of middle-school drug abuse and follows along on Madison Avenue shopping sprees. His twentysomething subjects include a Vanderbilt-Whitney heir, N.Y.C. Mayor Michael Bloomberg's daughter, some Eurotrash baron, a Trump daughter, and one guy— abrasively funny and candid Luke Weil—who later sued Johnson, fearing he'd look bad. None is so crass to suggest he or she has suffered more than the average young person for their gilt cocoons, but all exhibit a certain awkward eagerness to confide in us commoners. Like Paris Hilton, Born Rich shows how the confessional reality-TV craze exerts an upward pull: Everyone wants to prove they're just regular folk, and the first step is to begin baring one's insecurities to the lens.

On a commentary track, Johnson says he's rethought his politics in the process of making the film. He decries "a small population with a huge amount of money and a middle class that's only growing marginally"—or, as Dubya calls the former in Fahrenheit 9/11, "my base." Amid the Gucci bags, summer homes, and Schopenhauer quotes, you get the sense of how little these bluebloods have in common with Bush's adopted red-state America.

OUT NOV. 2, Jackie Chan's Around the World in 80 Days should do better on video. The art-house movies Facing Windows and A Home at the End of the World should also expand their audiences. The documentary Control Room is still timely; Fat Girl is still disturbing; and zombies die in droves in the Dawn of the Dead remake. And Shrek 2 will make millions more following its Nov. 5 debut on disc.

bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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