Nothing But Loose Ends, by David Bax
Kevin Asch’s Affluenza can be entirely summarized in a few short words: blandly attractive rich kids behave badly. As such, it could be written off as a CW take on Bret Easton Ellis, except that the CW already did that, and much more successfully, with Gossip Girl. That’s the two-pronged truth. Affluenza is not just a bad movie; it’s an unnecessary one.
The plot – and I’ll try to stick to the main thrust of it more than the movie does – concerns a non-rich kid, nevertheless bearing the rich kid name Fisher Miller, who spends a month living with his wealthy uncle, aunt and cousin in Great Neck, ostensibly in an attempt to establish the society connections that will help in get into the college of his choice. Obviously, he gets seduced by their decadent lifestyle and drawn into their interpersonal soap operas. This all takes place in September of 2008 and therefore has something to do with the economic collapse somehow.
Unlike Gossip Girl’s Dan Humphrey (it’s hard not to make the comparison when they even have the same floppy hair), Fisher puts up no resistance to conforming. And neither do his new friends make his transition to the inner circle treacherous or difficult. It’s the most harmless and affectless indoctrination imaginable. Asch skips over any bumps there might have been but it’s difficult to see why since he does so in favor of nothing whatsoever. In the early going, conflict and exposition are given short shrift but the slice-of-high-life moments that replace them have no urgency either.
There is not a choice made, either by the characters or the director, that feels particularly motivated. Plot holes and confusion abound. Fisher’s entrée into the group is the fact that he brought some good weed with him. He only arrived with one suitcase yet he appears to go through at least a brick of the stuff over the course of the story. Also confusing is the fact that his initial romantic interest looks just like his cousin. Honestly, though,a bit of incest would at least be more interesting than whatever is actually going on.
Eventually, after the umpteenth angst explosion at a white party or a country club golf course, it starts to become clear. These kids like to yell at each other simply because they’re bored. The haphazardly roaming camera and languid editing suggest the filmmakers are too. But just because everyone else is bored, does that mean we have to be?