Generation Wealth, directed by Lauren Greenfield, is an unfocused, lazy documentary filled with too much navel-gazing. Greenfield tackles the issue of greed, consumerism, capitalism and the evolution of the "American Dream," but Generation Wealth has nothing that's truly revealing, surprising or illuminating. Somehow, she manages to blend a variety of subjects into the doc ranging from the Kardashians to Kacey Jordan, an ex-porn star, to a Florian Homm, a financier guilty of investment fraud to her own mother and son. Generation Wealth doesn't even mention Adam Smith who wrote Wealth of Nations to provide some much-needed insights and perspectives. Even Michael Moore's documentary Capitalism: A Love Story which wasn't very profound is superior to this mess of a documentary because at least it was entertaining and not so poorly edited like Generation Wealth. A truly great documentary ought to find the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them emotionally and intellectually. This doc fails to do do that with flying colors. At a running time of 106 minutes, it overstays its welcome and leaves you feeling unenlightened and underwhelmed. Amazon Studios opens Generation Wealth at Angelika Film Center.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
After the death of her mother, Donna (Meryl Streep), Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) invites her three potential fathers, Harry (Colin Firth), Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) along with Donna's former bandmates, Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters), to the re-opening of the Bella Donna Hotel located on the Greek island of Kalokairi. She split up with her boyfriend, Sky (Dominic Cooper), who now lives in New York City. Back in 1979, Donna (Lily James), graduated college with her best friends/bandmates Rosie (Alexa Davies) and Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn), and first met the younger versions of Bill (Josh Dylan), Sam (Jeremy Irvine) and Harry (Hugh Skinner).
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is the rare sequel that surpasses the quality of the original film. The first Mamma Mia! was shallow with awkwardly choreographed musical numbers and an excruciating singing by Pierce Brosnan, but it did have some campiness and comic relief. Writer/director Ol Parker includes more campiness, more comic relief while delighting audiences with exhilarating musical dance numbers that are well-choreographed and better integrated into the plot. Although the screenplay isn't profound and the relationships onscreen are contrived without explored in depth, it does have offer plenty of witty quips and a few surprisingly poignant scenes to boot. This is the kind of film that's so irresistibly entertaining and joyous that you'll be able to forgive and forget any of the weaknesses in the screenplay. Beneath its uplifting surface that includes beautiful scenery, you'll find some darker and even tragic elements, but Parker just gently hints at them without dwelling on them. A few tender, melancholic ABBA songs feel genuinely moving while never becoming maudlin. Most importantly, Parker manages to find just the right tone for the film without any unevenness or clunkiness. Fortunately, the many flashbacks never feel distracting or lazy; many of the transitions between 1979 and the present are actually quite clever, i.e. through the use of a painting.
A huge part of what makes Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again so much fun, though, is its wonderful cast, both young and old, each of whom brings palpable charisma to their roles. The three actresses chosen to play the younger versions of Donna, Rosie and Tanya not only resemble the older versions physically, but also personality-wise. Lily James is absolutely radiant onscreen from start to finish. Credit should also go to casting director Nina Gold who has a knack for finding the right actors for every role. Not a single film of hers was ever miscast. Even the smaller roles, i.e. the security guard at the dock and the owner of a bar/restaurant, get a chance to shine and make a big impression while providing comic relief. Just as expected, the scene-stealing Julie Walters and Christine Baranski have some very funny lines as well. Parker does a great job of introducing the characters, but the most memorable introduction is that of Cher in the third act. Yes, the film breaks a screenwriting rule that a new character shouldn't be introduced late in the game, but that's forgivable. Hopefully, she'll have a bigger part in the next Mamma Mia!. With its running time of 1 hour and 54 minutes that flies by like 90 minutes, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again never overstays its welcome. It's a warm, funny, exuberant and unabashedly campy crowd-pleaser. Please be sure to stay for a hilarious scene after the end credits.
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