According to Wikipedia, the term affluenza refers to the “inability to understand the consequences of one’s actions because of financial privilege…” This film begins in September 2008 right before the financial crash, focusing on wealthy suburbia and specifically spoiled children. The entire affair is fairly tepid. How many times have we seen rich kids obnoxiously meander about partying, drinking, using drugs, driving fancy cars and ignoring politics? I wonder what director Kevin Asch and writer Antonio Macia thought there were adding to the conversation with this film. The characters are decently interesting but overall the film is unnecessary.
It’s not afraid to get political, specifically drawing attention to Obama through the classic “hope” poster and television speeches in the background. I’m not sure if they’re suggesting these people are a result of Obama’s leadership or if they’re just pointing out their ignorance for anything substantial such as politics. The unheralded use of the poster at the beginning would suggest the former, while the presence of Obama’s TV speech playing over sexual misadventures suggests the latter. The overall tone even suggests that maybe the film is a slight tirade against the Democratic Party’s young liberal base. Regardless, it’s a bit unclear what Asch and Macia are trying to say.
Affluenza is a rather tepid follow-up to director Kevin Asch and screenwriter Antonio Macia’s Holy Rollers, which explored orthodox Jewish youth in Brooklyn. That was a far more intriguing film. I’m not sure why Asch and Macia dipped into such bland subject matter for their follow-up.
A particularly notable achievement of the film is its portrayal of New York City. The recent release of Begin Again reminds me of the many generic, failed attempts to capture the city accurately on screen. Affluenza’s NYC moments are genuine even if they’re slight. One frequently use spot in cinema is Washington Square Park. Rather than showing the classic archway, characters just walk through the park as normal people would. The extras were all fully indicative of those I would encounter in that specific park at that specific time of day. This may seem unimportant but it brings a layer of authenticity to the film that I appreciated.
Overall, Affluenza isn’t really a film worth seeking out. While it succeeds somewhat, there’s no reason to watch this instead of many other relevant works.