PARK CITY — A lively doc whose familiar subject matter is countered by a novel spin and its maker’s privileged vantage point, “Teenage Paparazzo” questions the world of celebrity obsession without becoming judgmental or facile. Given the meta-showbiz possibilities raised by its director’s involvement with HBO’s “Entourage,” the film would be a natural for the doc-friendly cable network.
Adrian Grenier delivers some friendly first-person observations on fame’s weirdness before recalling his meeting with the film’s subject: 13-year-old Austin Visschedyk, a precocious mop-headed L.A. kid making an adult-sized income selling star pix. Knowing a good get when he sees one, Grenier invites himself into Austin’s life, knowing that insight into the larger “pap” industry will be part of the deal.
The movie glimpses the hectic routine of a celeb-shooter, full of cell-phone tips and jostling around rear entrances of nightclubs; we watch as the purple-hoodie-wearing kid shouts “chase that car” in hopes of being the first to view, say, Paris Hilton ordering an In-N-Out burger.
Grenier wonders why people give a damn about seeing that banal image but is restrained in some aspects of the inquiry — Hilton gives him plenty of interview time and even participates in a stunt with him, for instance, so it wouldn’t be very gracious to explicitly question her cultural worth. He talks to stars, tabloid editors and even the odd academic for perspective about star worship and the shutterbug industry it requires; the insights he gleans aren’t earth-shattering, but they’re nicely presented for mainstream viewers who haven’t spent much time in media studies courses.
After entertaining diversions like an outing in which Grenier straps on a camera and becomes part of the paparazzi himself, we learn that Austin’s unusual story has been discovered by the media — furthering the movie’s engaging hall-of-mirrors nature and inviting the filmmaker to worry over the part he’s playing in the possible corruption of a young soul. Ending on a hopeful note, Grenier suggests that a little self-awareness goes a long way on both sides of the camera.
Venue: Sundance Film Festival
Production company: Reckless Prods.
Director: Adrian Grenier
Executive producer: John S. Loar
Producers: Lynda Pribyl, Bert Marcus, Robin Garvick, Matthew Cooke
Director of photography: Steven Fierberg
Music: David Torn
Editor: Jim Curtis Mol
Sales agent: Mark Ankner at WME
No MPAA rating, 94 minutes