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Teenage Paparazzo goes celebrity hunting in a hall of mirrors

Teenage Paparazzo director Adrian Grenier.

3 out of 4 stars


Teenage Paparazzo

  • Directed by Adrian Grenier
  • Starring Austin Visschedyk
  • Classification: 14A

The only thing as shallow as our celebrity culture is the observation that we live in a celebrity culture. Like, duh. Teenage Paparazzo attempts to dip that observation into deeper sociological waters, and fails, but at least it has a fun time trying. And so, more or less, we have a fun time watching, which, given our shallow bent, is really all that matters, is it not?

This isn't the first documentary to stalk the paparazzi, turning the camera on the cameramen and thus, for the movie's duration, transforming predators into prey, the celebrity-hunters into mini celebs themselves. The effect is always to create a little hall of mirrors, then to opine on the irony of so much reflected glory. In this case, the differences are two-fold. First, the doc-maker is Adrian Grenier, who owes his own fame to the TV series Entourage, where he portrays a famous actor. Ergo, a celebrity, who became so by playing a celebrity, is making a picture about the people who take pictures of celebrities like him. Naturally, to broaden the appeal of his documentary, Grenier appears on screen regularly; however, a good-natured fellow, he 'fesses up about his motives in the opening frame, then opines on the irony of so much reflected glory.

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The second difference here is that the paparazzo, the stalking cameraman, is actually a camera boy - 14-year-old Austin Visschedyk. A native of Los Angeles, tech-savvy and wise in the ways of Hollywood home addresses, the kid is cherubically blond, the kid is awfully cute, the kid looks like the kids in a Spielberg movie. That he swears like an adult in a Tarantino movie does nothing to diminish, and doubtless even enhances, his precocious appeal.

Anyway, once upon a time, tiny Austin clicked away at Grenier, and now Grenier is clicking away at him. Together, they head out to do what the boy does best, tracking down the Lindsays and Britneys and shopping the photos to that multitude of celeb mags. His mother Jane is unperturbed by her son's vocation, content that he's not doing drugs and happy that he's "very serious about it." Even better, Austin is home-schooled, which seems to afford him ample time, day or night, to go on the hunt. As he does, the other paparazzi shoot Grenier shooting his subject, then get bored, and finally get miffed when Grenier starts to interview them. Apparently, they don't enjoy having their privacy invaded.

Now and then, the director steers away from the kid to chat up his fellow celebs, or to question academics celebrated for their deep thinking about our shallow culture. From the former crowd, we learn that fame can be a pain, but the pain comes with the territory. The only one to rise above the clich├ęs is Alec Baldwin who, having ample experience in these matters, points out that the same conglomerates own the studios that make the movies, the TV networks that promote the movies, and the tabloid rags that muddy the movie stars. It's just a tidy circle that promotes good business all around. From the latter, the academics, we hear that the rest of us mere mortals have always paid obeisance to the powerful and, increasingly, seek out their vicarious company to placate our loneliness in this electronic age. Gee, who knew?

Back to Austin who, being blond and cute and the callow principal in an upcoming movie made by a famous guy, is soon getting invited onto those entertainment "news" shows. There's even discussion about a reality TV series built around him and his mom. Well, another inevitable irony: Damned if the kid isn't becoming a cocky celebrity himself. Worried about his role in that metamorphosis, Grenier claims to feel guilty. A decent actor, he's almost convincing.

Cut to a year later when the director catches up with his subject again, grown taller in the interim and a tad less cute. The two vow to start a real friendship, but only with the ubiquitous camera turned off. So off it goes, fade to black, and not a moment too soon. The children, all of us children, have had enough fun for now.

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