DVD Review: TEENAGE PAPARAZZO
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 and Catfish, 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 was, Paparazzo 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.