Adrian Grenier is one of the stars on the HBO television series, Entourage. It is kind of ironic, in the film he plays the part of a star that is stalked by the paparazzi. In real life he has become an individual whose real life mirrors the life of the character he plays in Entourage. One night while he was out on the town Grenier noticed a kid taking his photo in the barrage of paparazzi. The kid, a 13-year-old named Austin Visschedyk was the youngest paparazzi Grenier had come into contact with so goes out of his way to get to know the kid and it was here the inspiration for the HBO Documentary was born. The documentary, a 2010 Sundance Film Festival selection is sure to turn heads, and get people thinking about stardom and those who take their photographs. Paparazzo the documentary is more than that though; it is a pleasant surprise that got me to thinking about a number of things; something a good documentary should do.
Grenier does an excellent job at directing Paparazzo. The story is told in such a way it flows naturally. The story is weaved together in such a real way that we follow the journey of not just Visschedyk, but also in Grenier in getting to know and understand the paparazzi. There is a respect given that is somewhat unexpected, especially from someone who has had to endure the flash of cameras. Grenier is fair in his presentation of all sides of the story. He weaves in a number of interviews with celebrities who have had to endure more than most could imagine, among those are Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.
As Paparazzo progresses it becomes more than just a story about the paparazzi though, (specifically the 13 year-old Visschedyk) it becomes a road journey type of film where Grenier develops a friendship with Visschedyk. We see Grenier start to care about the future of young Visschedyk, his safety, dreams, and aspirations. He ultimately realizes the two are using each other to accomplish something for themselves. In the reality and hope of real friendship more is required than using each other.
At the first of the film, we see a young awe inspired Visscheyk doing something he loves, we see the lack of involvement in parenting from his parents, especially his mother who seems to run the show. From being out at 3 AM to his usage of language and dictating where they will eat at, it is apparent that Visscheyk has lacked some level of control in his life. As the friendship between Grenier and Visscheyk develops we see Grenier start to recognize this. In the process we see Visscheyk start to develop even poorer habits and in the process, many of those around him, and the experts, start to have some level of concern for his future. There is the realization that he is a hot commodity now because of his age more than the quality of his photographs, (not that his photographs are bad), but he is getting opportunities because he is young, and according to some, ‘sexy.’ Grenier has a tool though to help in getting Visscheyk to see himself as others will and have. It is here that we see Paparazzo become more than a documentary; it becomes real life, especially for those involved in the filming of the documentary.
There are a number of things about Paparazzo that I liked, among those is the need to serve others, and of each of us going beyond using someone for ones own self. There comes a time when real friends realize the importance of being honest, sincere, and care for each other, even to the point of sharing things the other may not like. There is also the role of family. When do parents take charge and accept the responsibility of not being a friend or buddy to their child, (especially a 13-year-old) and start being a parent? We see the need to set guidelines, boundaries, and insuring that your child is in safe situations. Loving is not always about doing what is fun, sometimes loving each other is about doing what is hard, going out of the way to do more, be more, and share in life. I was reminded of the Bible verse that states, ‘No greater love has anyone than this; that they lay down their life for another.’ One of the sad concepts in Paparazzo is that fewer and fewer people understand the concept of befriending, or loving others to the point of self sacrifice.
I liked Paparazzo; I was captivated by the story and appreciated the authenticity of how the story was told. I also appreciated the research presented regarding the desire of many to be ‘famous’ and the dangers of what occur within society with this attitude. When we ignore the reality of what is happening in the minds of Western, or American culture we end up with a society that ultimately becomes unfulfilling. There are a number of outtakes on the DVD that are worth watching. One in particular has Grenier and Visscheyk riding in the back of the car speaking of spiritual things. One brings up if the other has ever read the bible; another says how they liked the Message Version of the Bible. When Visscheyk admits that he has read it a few times, he has never really lived it or practiced it. Of course to his defense he also admits he has never read his camera’s operation manual. He just pushes buttons and tries things until he figures it out. When watching this I couldn’t help but think that is how many approach life, we just go along trying things out. Unfortunately if Visscheyk ever read the operation manual for his camera he may get more out of it. In the same regard, if we would open up our Bibles and apply what it says we may also get more out of it. When one opens up the operations manual for a camera, they learn not just about taking better photos, but also about becoming better photographers, a photographer that can provide a future, a hope, a tomorrow that is more about doing for others than having done for you. On that point Paparazzo is a good documentary. One I hope has a decent audience, and one that will provide a DVD well worth watching, and well worth discussing.
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