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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Teenage Paparazzo



Teenage Paparazzo features a famous celebrity examining and trying to understand the phenomenon of the paparazzi through the eyes of the youngest paparazzo in Hollywood. That famous celebrity is Adrian Grenier, star of Entourage and the silver screen (including a multiple award-winning short film called Across the Hall), who takes an interest in a street-wise 14 year old blond moppet named Austin, the aforementioned teenage paparazzo. Grenier points his documentary cameras at the boy, his parents, and the men and women who make their living stalking the streets of Los Angeles looking for famous people to photograph. What results is an entertaining and savvy glimpse into celebrity and the cultural obsession with celebrity worship.

Using Austin as its subject matter, Teenage Paparazzo finds an interesting hook into the somewhat secretive cabal of the paparazzi, while also aptly questioning how a life of pounding the streets of LA at all hours of the day and night adversely affects a bright and driven teenager, as it must, despite the "thousands of dollars" Austin presumably earned for his work. Teenage Paparazzo doesn't find any new answers to why the fame and misadventures of celebrities fascinate the general public so, but perhaps this is because there aren't any new answers besides the obvious.

Teenage Paparazzo ramps up when Grenier himself takes up a camera and chases down fellow celebrities for photographs; this enables him to gain the respect and camraderie of the initially suspicious paparazzi Austin calls his peers, although getting stepped on, literally, was the price he paid. Grenier's storytelling is thoughtful, even-handed, and decidedly not negative; he chooses not to condemn Austin's parents for letting their son basically run wild on the dangerous streets of Los Angeles, allowing the viewer to decide for themselves how appropriate their parenting is. Grenier also makes clear Austin's household is loving and supportive, though highly unorthodox, and there's a great deal of admiration expressed for Austin's hustle and initiative.

Teenage Paparazzo widens its scope in its second half as it grapples with the cultural demand for celebrity worship via magazines like US Weekly. (There's a big laugh when Grenier is caught by paparazzi buying cameras for his excusion as a paparazzo - "He buys cameras! He's just like us!"). As a star of his magnitude, Grenier also able to round up and procure plenty of face time with many of the paparazzi's favorite usual suspects, including Lindsay Lohan, Eva Longoria, and Paris Hilton (who really should learn to not keep calling a 14 year old boy "sexy"). Alternately, Jaleel "Steve Urkel" White's presence as an interviewee is a head scratcher. Grenier and Hilton have fun playing with the paparazzi, staging dates and beach excursions, further blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

In the end, Grenier admirably accepts responsibility for the heavy role he played in turning Austin into a celebrity himself via making Teenage Paparazzo about him (although Austin was already gaining fame over the Internet and was offered a reality show on E!). It's shocking when the documentary leaps "a year later" to find an older Austin, less shaggy, and looking a bit like a tomboy Carey Mulligan. A wiser Austin seems have grown out of the frenetic need to parasite off of the famous, and he seems to have shed the desire to become famous himself. Still, living in Los Angeles, surrounded constantly by the famous and wealthy, one has to wonder how long until he's bitten once more by that paparazzi bug. At the very least, it seems like there's room for Austin in Adrian Grenier's entourage.