REVIEW / Honey, I psychologically damaged the kids

Jilly Hafenrichter, the producer of Hollywood Kids (ITV), has changed her name since she featured on the credits of last year's Hollywood Women (she was Hutchinson then). Perhaps she wanted to make a clean start, put the unseemly past behind her.

But it's no good, I'm afraid - her fingerprints are all over the film. The same frenzied cutting style, the same armlock on your opinions, the same indifference to the nuances of human expression. It's shallow, slick, and occasionally odious. Unfortunately it's also disgustingly compelling.

The subject last night was "Children of the Rich and Famous", an account of the high price of privilege, from the cradle ("A baby can't be a baby without Baby Dior!") to the rehab unit. Not very rich and famous, in truth; they were either too busy or toowell protected to talk. For all the gloss and money, the people here were Hollywood's needy, people hungry for the attention of the camera. Hungry enough, at least, to bite down on the poisoned bait offered by Hafenrichter's lens and lights. In that respect it was a loser's anthropology - balanced only by Jamie Lee Curtis, a woman who appeared to be in deep denial about the darker side of town (Hafenrichter contradicted her oddly strenuous protests with first-hand evidence from victims).

That it was a loser's account doesn't matter - this was the iceberg below the waterline, a reminder that what's visible necessarily submerges other lives. "Remember," the daughter of Loretta Young recalled her mother saying, "when you are in public you are a reflection of me." Ordinary parents think, or even say as much, but their solipsism isn't reinforced for the child by the barrage of flash-bulbs and an adoring public. Sometimes the reflection isn't what the star wants to see - there was a wincing passage in which the film cut between that grotesque denial of nature, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and her daughter, a plump girl who had cheerfully ignored her mother's advice on dieting but couldn't cheerfully ignore the contempt that inspired it.

It would have been nice to have some sense that Hollywood Kids could distinguish between those who've simply been affected and those who have affectations. But the brutality of the editorial style - rapid, sardonic cuts - effectively prevents discrimination or compassion, even when such feelings might be legitimate. In many cases you can't even tell how or why people are saying things, whether they are lying to themselves or trying to tell the truth.

It isn't that the style is bankrupt in itself - it can be used brilliantly for satirical effect, to highlight cliches of thought or to expose lies. Indeed, the film was at its best when exploring the vacuous complexities of Hollywood family life - not somuch nuclear as post-nuclear, the result of some awful chain-reaction of multiple divorces and remarriages, which ends up with siblings scattered all across town. "I'm anxious to meet her," said Kimber Eastwood of her new half-sister, "but our schedulesdon't allow it, as of now." She wasn't joking.

But Hollywood Kids doesn't really know the difference between satire and a freak-show - there's an awful sense of opportunistic glee in the face of distress, a moral numbness about the way it can't listen to anybody for any length of time. This was most conspicuous when Catya Sassoon came on screen. She also featured in Hollywood Women, and Hafenrichter obviously thought she could squeeze more out of her. Catya obligingly delivered a slurred condemnation of her father, her head lolling; "He kno ws how to be Vidal Sassoon,'' she said, "but he doesn't know how to be Dad." A kinder person might have looked away at this moment but the material was too good to pass over. Guaranteed box-office from one of the wannabes.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

    Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

    The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor