Rating: Not Rated
Peter L. Skolnik
Commentary by director Jamie Johnson, producer Dirk Wittenborn and textile heir Cody Franchetti
Running Time: 81 Minutes
This film was produced and directed by Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune. He conducts this look at an unusual and elite portion of society those born multi-millionaires (and billionaires). How do they come to terms with their wealth? When did they first learn they were rich? What do they do with their time and money when they don’t have to work? What will they do in the future? Johnson conducts interviews with others like himself in an effort to come to terms with his own situation. His interviews include:
Georgianna Bloomberg, media heiress
Stephanie Ercklentz, finance heiress
Cody Franchetti, textile heir
Christina Floyd, professional sports heiress
Juliet Hartford, A&P Supermarket heiress
Josiah Hornblower, Vanderbilt/Whitney heir
S.I. Newhouse IV, media heir
Ivana Trump, real estate heiress
Luke Weill, gaming industry heir
Carlo von Zeitschel, European royalty
“Born Rich” is not rated, but it contains harsh profanity.
I was afraid that this movie was going to be 81 minutes of spoiled rich kids whining about how rough it was to be so rich. To an extent, that’s still what it is. But it’s also an interesting psychological study on human nature. What happens to children who grow up never knowing the need to work or the need to make a living or support themselves? This documentary gives the answer to that and it’s interesting to see how varied the results are.
Jamie Johnson has selected an interesting batch of rich kids to interview. They seem to run the full spectrum of ambition, responsibility, and maturity. For example, Ivanka Trump comes across as an intelligent and well adjusted young woman. At the opposite end is Luke Weil who comes across as a cocky partying frat boy who has yet to grow up. (Weil is even shown suing Johnson to keep him from using their interview footage in the documentary.) The rest of the interviewees are everywhere in between. However, they all have similar issues and concerns. They all talk about looking for a desire to work. They talk about the conflicting messages that they should hide their wealth and simultaneously flaunt it. They all talk about how they had trouble staying focused in school. They all talk about the need to prove themselves. But I frequently found that as soon as one of them would say something profound or mature, they’d turn around and say something inane in the next breath. Anyway, it’s interesting to see what these young men and women have turned into under abnormal circumstances.
Ultimately, this film seems like psychotherapy for Jamie Johnson. I don’t think this film is him looking for sympathy so much as it being a way for him to work out his own problems. When he shows his father giving him advice to become a rare document collector as a career, it seems like Johnson saying, “Look what I have to deal with.” When he shows the other rich kids in the interviews, it seems like him saying, “These are my peers.” And of the interviewees that come across best, it seems like him saying, “These are the people I turn to in order to talk with.” If you find this internal exploration interesting, then Born Rich is for you. If you have a hard time watching rich kids talk about their lives, you’re probably better off watching something else.
There are a couple of extras included on this DVD:
Commentary by director Jamie Johnson, producer Dirk Wittenborn and textile heir Cody Franchetti There are actually two commentaries one with Johnson alone and one with his fellow crew members. On Johnson’s solo commentary, he comes across as articulate and well grounded. You get a lot more insight into why he made this movie. When he joins the other members, the discussion becomes more of a supplement to the film. They add more stories to what is shown on film, talk about experiences of other rich folks, etc. If you liked the movie then you’ll find this a good addition to the film.
Deleted scenes The deleted scenes are primarily outtakes from the interviews. However, the most notable are some shots taken after Johnson’s party shown in the film. You see a number of his obviously intoxicated rich guests clowning around on camera. I don’t know if he intended to portray them as drunken spoiled frat boys, but that’s the way they came across. Watching them act obnoxious on camera left a bad impression with me and pretty much erased any sympathy I may have had for them.
The Bottom Line:
This documentary is more for those interested in psychoanalysis and social behavior studies than general audiences. It’s an interesting look at the rich, but hardly one that many will be able to identify with.