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Born Rich
Born Rich
Actors: Georgina Bloomberg, Stephanie Ercklentz, Christina Floyd, Cody Franchetti, Austin Fuentes
Director: Jamie Johnson (IV)
Genres: Television, Documentary
NR     2004     1hr 15min

An Inside Look at the Lives of the Heirs to The World?s Greatest Family Fortunes Jamie Johnson, 20-year-old heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical empire, turns in a remarkable documentary about the lives of the chi...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Georgina Bloomberg, Stephanie Ercklentz, Christina Floyd, Cody Franchetti, Austin Fuentes
Director: Jamie Johnson (IV)
Genres: Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Television, Documentary
Studio: Shout Factory Theatr
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 10/05/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 15min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Content wise, it was a 5, but production wise, it wasn't
fan | washington dc | 10/07/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"What an intriguing notion -- get the youngest beneficiaries of inherited wealth to discuss something that is considered the ultimate taboo. The results Jamie Johnson gets are really very interesting.

What the kids say really runs the gamut. Ivanka Trump comes across very level headed, even saying at one point that she couldn't understand why people treated her differently when she was younger, because the money that got her that type of attention was her parents', and she wasn't going to give it to that person. Josiah Hornblower and S.I. Newhouse came across really sympathically, seeming really embarassed about their family's money. As some of the newpaper reviewers have pointed out, these two seem to want to succeed, despite their parent's money.
Stephanie Ercklentz and Christina Floyd come across as a bit frivolous, but not shallow. Cody Franchetti seems to be desperate to sound really intellectual, and for the most part he succeeds, but at times, it seems really forced. Carlo Von Zeitschel and Georgina Bloomberg are only seen for short clips, so it not possible to get a really good sense of who they are. Von Zeitschel does do a good job of playing all European and jaded, but he also seems very nervous about talking on camera.

The most ballyhooed participant was Luke Weil, because he sued Jamie Johnson. He seemed really troubled and dysfunctional when it comes down to it, like he was going to fall apart at any moment. Everyone who reviewed this documentary before said he came across as shallow, but to me, he just seemed really pathetic. He was the sort of person no one would take an interest in if he didn't have money. Velvet ropes part for him, because he is a wealthy person. One wonders if that would happen if he wasn't. The part about his education was also pretty astounding considering he lives his life on a knife edge, and if for some reason his fortune were to disappear, like from his father getting angry about him for appearing in a documentary about rich people, he wouldn't have much to fall back on.

Another very interesting thing about this movie was that some of these people -- not all of them, if their money were taken away, would really not be all that interesting. The fact they have money makes people pay attention to them, not anything special about them or their personalities.

I don't personally know any of these people, and it is possible that Johnson, a life long friend of most of these people, cut the clips together to make them come across as more sympathetic, which they do for the most part.

Overall, I think this is a very interesting and insightful film. Johnson must be commended for making it, especially in this society, where wealth is so prized and so talked about. This is an even bigger accomplishment given that the way he portrays the rich is that they travel in such a tight circle, really not letting anyone "new" in.

The production however, is really crude. Maybe it was the filmmaker's intent to do so, to show the rich, warts and all. There were parts that I thought could have been refined a little bit."
A Meritocracy Indeed
Blake Fraina | Connecticut | 03/28/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"On the surface, this short documentary can be appreciated as nothing more than a glimpse into a world that few of us will ever know - that of fabulous, inherited wealth. However, dig a little deeper and there are interesting comparisons to be made between the three distinctive "groups" represented here. When comparing the Americans - the wealthy sons vs. the wealthy daughters in the United States, a supposed meritocracy, the boys uniformly seem determined to "prove themselves" in some way. They vary from being slightly abashed to extremely apologetic about their money because they're well aware they haven't earned it, while the girls (Ivanka Trump being the token exception) just want to shop, lunch at the country club, ride horses or collect art. Then compare the American boys to the the two Europeans represented. In Europe, where the class system is deeply ingrained and generally accepted, the boys are shameless and without apologies about their wealth. Not surprising, then, that they come off as the biggest idiots of the piece as well.

Ultimately, however, this film (like all good documentaries) is a study of individuals. Meaning that the average viewer will probably end up liking some of these kids while loathing others. Just like any other group of people. I can't say that I learned anything earth shattering or even terribly new here but as a character study, "Born Rich" is fascinating stuff.

And despite the famous phrase, one comes away with the sense that the rich AREN'T so different after all."
Mea culpa or absolution?
H. Chase | Houston, TX | 03/31/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is a film worth seeing. It is obvious that it is a first attempt (some of the technical details weren't worked out, despite the money backing it), but it is a good first attempt. That said, you might find yourself wanting to shake some of the subjects in this documentary and say, "Stop this nonsense." It's important to note that the subjects are all young adults, still teenagers really, and thusly they are still by nature self-centered and their wealth only seems to prolong their stay in that shallow intellectual puddle.

Jamie Johnson is clearly attempting to elevate himself out of that puddle in this project and is likeable and seemingly more mature than many of the subjects in this documentary, but many of his thoughts about his lifestyle lack profundity. Of course, this isn't really surprising given his age (21) when he made this.

It's somewhat amusing and somewhat sad that while these privileged young people employ their Brown University educations to quote philosophers like Balzac and writers like Hemmingway, they don't have any of the life experience to relate to these thinkers. I hate to break it to Jamie and the others in the film, but many of the conclusions he'd reached have already been reached by others for generations. They are just too insulated to realize that what they are just now "discovering" about the challenges of their position is old news.

All in all, the documentary seems to conclude with the notion that all the adjustment problems of these wealthy young heirs come from the fact that wealth is often not discussed in polite company, but rather sprung on them when they are "of age", which I suppose makes the rest of the world not involved in the elite society impolite since we have been talking about this for quite some time now. That someone on the inside, so to speak, has finally dawned on the idea that wealthy heirs must make use of themselves or be forgotten from history is simply a novelty, not a profundity. Nonetheless, it is interesting in a voyeuristic way.

I can't decide whether Jamie is admitting to guilt for his wealth, or simply seeking to absolve himself of the guilt of unearned privilege. It seems that he wants to no longer have to apologize or hide the fact that he is an heir to wealth, which bespeaks a kind of resentment for the meritocracy he so blithely dismisses as a myth in our society at the beginning of the film.

The point he seems to come just short of grasping is that this still is a meritocracy, for with all the money that these heirs enjoy, if they do nothing with it but fritter it away in indolent pursuit, they render themselves meaningless to the world at large. They only weild power through opportunity if they actually weild it. Weilding money isn't the same thing. If they do not perpetuate the wealth through using opportunities, the wealth will eventually die out along with their opportunity and therefore any chance of influence. So the problem works itself out over time.

I also think he misses the point that the money they've inhereted wasn't stolen from the mouths of starving third-world children and given to them (one hopes); their families earned it and chose to bequeath it to them. If they choose to be useless, it isn't as if that money just vaporizes into thin air merely because they are no longer in possession of it. If they put it back into the market via shopping or drinking or whatever, that money then becomes someone else's profit. By all means, be stupid with your money so that someone else can earn it and feed their family and provide them opportunities.

You may find yourself alternately being disgusted with and having pity for a few of the subjects in the film. The eurotrash he features (one pointless descendant of dead royalty, and one heir/model) are the very stereotype of pompous vanity, despite their attempts to assure us that it is in fact morality and guilt that is provencial and quaintly stupid. One could almost feel bad for them, but then... who really cares if that's how they choose to live their lives?

Luke Weil, one of the subjects and the heir of the Autotote fortune, comes off as simultaneously amusing and pathetic in his bitter rants about how life "really" is. Coming from someone who is barely old enough to drink, you simply have to laugh at his appearance of adolescent superficial cynicism, and if you're the charitable type, you might hope that he comes around lest he become yet another one of those mean-spirited lonely patrons of strip bars and Vegas casinos who no one really likes, but whose thoughtless spending foots the bill.

Jamie makes an apology for the way that Stephanie Ercklentz appears -- shallow and materialistic -- but nothing was really shown to the audience that leads you to think she possesses more depth than that. If she does and Jamie chose not to show it, you have to ask why. His assurance in the audio commentary that she is really quite intelligent doesn't really wash.

Georgina Bloomberg only seems interesting if you fancy horses.

S.I. Newhouse IV and Josiah Hornblower, both respective heirs to incredibly historic fortunes, are the most thoughtful and introspective, which does help to balance the utter ridiculousness of the other subjects.

Ivanka Trump is the only subject in this entire documentary who actually provoked my compassion. She comes off so level-headed and down-to-earth while holding herself with grace and intelligence -- you can hardly believe that such a person can be the product of such a coarse and vulgar divorce dispute. Given the way the media has treated her, I found her attitudes to be refreshing.

All in all, this is a fascinating documentary, but when it's over, you might find yourself feeling thankful that you do not share their lives (if in fact you don't), and I'm not sure that was Jamie's intention. Not because these young people are victims of their situation, but rather because of who they are NOT becoming as a result of their obsession with themselves. It makes the meritocratic philosophy Americans so hold dear (and the eurotrash in the film so derided) that much more precious. The fact that though most of us may never enjoy the attention of the NY gossip columns, our lives are blessedly free of that kind of superficiality unless, of course, we turn on our televisions and choose to be entertained by the antics of people like this.

I congratulate Jamie for having the chutzpah to do this documentary, and it will be interesting to see if he pursues film as a profession. I suspect he will turn into a very interesting and inspiring man if he does."
And a half. I'd give 4 if he needed the money.
slickfifty | Burlington, Vermont | 01/07/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"First, I think Jamie Johnson deserves some credit for tackling this project. For a subject that is supposedly "taboo", most of the subjects seemed willing -- if not eager -- to offer some insights, but careful to limit what they said in great detail.

The overwhelming impression I had from these kids is that they suffer from a lack of any sense of purpose. Whereas most of us have to tackle the question of who we are while at the same time worrying about how to pay the bills, they make their quest for identity seem that much greater in comparison, just like the bigger houses and bigger cars. Overall, they come across as self-involved and uninteresting beyond one facet of their character.

The most seemingly deplorable person in the film was Luke, who was remarkable in his honesty when it comes to gold-digging b****** and citing his need to subjugate others with his social entitlement. The affectatious Cody comes across as just plain ridiculous, stressing the importance of subtlety in conversation and spending his time focused on the lapel height of his suits. In contrast to Cody's pseudo-intellectual quoting & commentary of class structure is Carlos, the neurotic chain-smoking royalty descended from a German Kaiser, whose detached and emotionally devoid comments made me wonder how much a scarily small gene pool contributed to the mishaps of European history.

On the other hand, some of the other other participants (Josiah, S.I. and Stephanie) make honest efforts to carve out their own niches in the world. I don't feel sorry for these people, but I wouldn't necessarily trade my problems for theirs either. They can put the accomplishments of their families in perspective with their place within that family & the world -- they don't need to make excuses for having money or question whether they are deserving of what was given to them. If money seemed to be the variable behind most of the psychological or developmental issues these kids had, there was an outlier with Ivanka Trump. She seemed far more normal in her reaction to abnormal plights, like discovering her parents divorce in the papers. You would never know Donald Trump could juggle fatherhood with everything else, but he must have done something right. Maybe he was planning on writing a book on how to raise normal rich kids. Jamie deserves a big nod too & hopefully in the process he found part of his calling.