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  • Born Rich

    Posted in: Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on November 18th, 2004

    (out of 5)

    Born Rich is a documentary about, well, rich kids. The subject makes it hard to sympathize with the piece (“oh those poor millionaires”). But the director and main character, Jamie Johnson (an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune), gives us interviews with other heirs from rich families – Ivanka Trump (Real Estate Heiress), Josiah Hornblower (Vanderbilt/Whitney Heir), Cody Franchetti (Textile Heir), S.I Newhouse IV (Publishing Heir), Luke Weil (Gambling Heir), and others. Johnson makes his subjects talk abo…t that taboo topic: money.

    There are some revealing interviews, and we get taken inside a secret world, which is the whole point of documentary filmmaking. And the subject matter, obviously, satisfies people’s curiosity (remember Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous). But the problem with the film (an “official” selection at the Sundance Film Festival) is that we’re only scratching the surface here. It’s an interview based documentary, and the interviews aren’t nearly exciting to support an entire film. What about the clubs? The parties? The chi-chi stuff? We just get glimpses. The movie is only 67 minutes long and NOT the 81 minutes advertised on the DVD cover. Surely a rich kid could afford a little bit more budget?


    It’s a low budget film, shot on DV. So the sound mix is always a question mark in these things. But the Dolby Digital 2.0 track is clear enough. It’s an interview based doc, so the sound quality of the interview subjects are the main concern. The rich kids can be heard loud and clear. There are a few musical effects that can be heard on your rear speakers. But this is a very front heavy mix.


    Shot on Digital Video, the picture looks very much like video. The 1.33:1 transfer is clean, however. Not much evidence of any haloing, edge enhancement, pixilation, or grain (except in those low light video grain effects). The lighting is well done for a DV feature.

    Special Features

    There are two special features. One is by Jamie Johnson himself. It’s kind of confusing because he is narrating the feature film anyway. So it just sounds like it’s more of the documentary. But Jamie offers more “insider” information into the making of this film. Jamie also gives us more dirt on his lawsuit with one of the participants in the film.

    The other commentary is Jamie again, but this time with friends. It’s a kind of redundant track because he covers some of the same ground. Producer (and uncle) Dirk Whittenborn adds some life to the proceedings and some relief from Jamie’s droning voice.

    There are about 15 minutes of deleted scenes. All could’ve been included in the main film. Born Rich runs just over an hour as it is. C’mon…throw ‘em in.

    Final Thoughts

    Born Rich is a curiosity piece rather than a film. But Jamie Johnson gives us more insight and perspective than an episode of The Simple Life. But is that saying much? Attempts to humanize these rich kids are somewhat successful. They’re just like us, right? Ummmm..no. But the dramatic thrust of the film, Jamie’s conflicts about being rich, aren’t fully examined or acted upon. And the movie seems to cut off just as it gets going (in rich kid fashion, Jamie is sued by one of the participants in the documentary). The audio and video are well done for a digital video movie, and the extras are interesting, if not lacking (maybe a featurette). Worth a rental, if you’re intrigued by the lives of rich brats.

    Special Features List

    • Making-Of Documentary
    • Audio Commentary
    Posted In: 1.33:1 Fullscreen, Disc Reviews, Documentary, Dolby Digital 2.0 (English), DVD, Shout Factory

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