If the perceived douchiness of Adrian Grenier is preventing you from seeing this film, let me assuage your fears- Teenage Paparazzo
is very, very good. Sure, it's familiar territory for the star, but
this isn't some superficial vanity project or an episode of Entourage
come to life. It is an in-depth look at the symbiotic relationship
between celebrities and the public, as well as an assured directorial
It all begins with Grenier being flash-blasted by 14 year-old Austin
Visschedyk in a conveniently documented night on the town. Considering
recent "documentaries" like Exit Through The Giftshop
it's hard not to be skeptical of the moment as it appears in the film.
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the incident was reenacted.
Despite this, it never feels like Grenier is out to deceive the viewer.
He sees an opportunity and he takes it, turning the tables and the
camera on the Bieber-haired pap.
I remember reading about Paparazzo
while it was still
filming. Little information was available at the time- Grenier was
making a doc about a pre-pubescent pap and Paris Hilton was somehow
involved. Hilton is a vapid fame-whore with no discernible talent, but I
was still intrigued. (Anyone who claims they aren't fascinated by the
subject of modern celebrity, at least from a social standpoint, is
either Amish or a liar.) Then it was reported that Grenier was in all
likelihood banging his subject/co-star and pics of them hanging out
started popping up on TMZ. That's when I lost interest in the project.
Grenier had fulfilled the promise of his (perceived) douchiness in the
most hypocritical of fashions- namely perpetrating the ole film n' bang.
But guess what? MINOR SPOILER
(although I'm not giving away
anything the film isn't completely upfront about) - it was all a rouse, a
cunning attempt to trick us. It was an experiment on the director's
part to see how easy it is to manufacture highly lucrative celebrity
gossip. And guess what? The system works. Congratulations, America, you
gobbled it up.
So you would think the film would have guaranteed mass appeal, but as far as I can tell, Teenage Paparazzo
didn't receive much of a theatrical run. It's a shame, really. Grenier has more than enough star power to lure in unsuspecting Entourage
fans and the film is tailor-made for culture critics and documentary buffs. While not the conceptual piece of art Exit Through The Giftshop
does share a certain meta-doc experimentation with that film, and would appeal to the same audience.
Another reason the film impressed me was its willingness to go
beyond the subject of Austin and examine the bigger picture. Grenier
trots out all manner of media experts to discuss the psychology behind
people's desire to watch and be watched. In one very telling experiment,
monkeys given the option of eating or looking at pictures of more
dominant monkeys chose to look at the other monkeys. For the amateur
psychologist/science buff, this is where the film hits its stride,
elevating it above a mere "day in the life" character study.
But back to the physical subject of the film, as opposed to the
thematic one. Grenier brings us full circle back to Austin, whose
dangerous dalliance with Lady Fame is threatening to turn him into one
of the spoiled brats he photographs. It's a catch-22 situation. Grenier
tries to help the kid find himself while simultaneously exploiting him
for the film. In the end, Grenier decides to turn off the camera, even
though Austin's story hasn't reached some grand conclusion. But that's
not really the point of the whole endeavor. He is just another cog in
the wheel of the fascinating Hollywood machine, which turns out to be
much more complicated than it seems.
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