Film Review: Good Fortune

A decidedly one-sided cinematic paean to a rare good guy among the one percent that goes down easily, making you feel better in the knowledge that someone like him exists.
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It’s more than easy to hate the rich today, especially those who endlessly flaunt their wealth with obscene displays of conspicuous consumption, no philanthropic involvements to speak of, and those who have done very little to deserve it. (Hear me, Kim, Khloe, Kylie, et al?) It’s therefore refreshing to hear the story of John Paul DeJoria, who almost fetishizes charitable work as certain other deep-pocketed young women might an Hermès bag.

Born poor, and an “honorary Mexican” by virtue of his growing up in East Los Angeles, DeJoria came up the hard way, often homeless and a member of motorcycle gangs, instilling a restless, hyper-energetic spirit in him that persists to this day. He turned it all around when, after his brother tragically died young, he teamed with hair artist Paul Mitchell to create a smashingly successful line of hair-care products, which fortune he parlayed into the creation of Patrón, biggest tequila label of them all.

In marked contrast to the many spot-lit, horrendously entitled fat cats in this country, starting with our 45th so-called Leader of the Free World, DeJoria’s personal mantra was “Success unshared is failure.” To that end, he has supported a jaw-dropping number of charities, including work programs abetting the homeless, and signed Warren Buffet and Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge in 2011, promising to donate more than half their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes during their lifetime or in their wills. A pet cause is fighting whale poachers in the Arctic, and the film kicks into high gear with footage of DeJoria aboard a ship heading directly into the fray.

However much one may agree with the man and his causes, an 85-minute, officially approved love letter to him has a definite potential to be cloying. Thankfully, directors Joshua and Rebecca Tickell manage to largely avoid that self-congratulatory ick factor by keeping things relatively light and stressing the fact that, with multiple marriages for one thing, DeJoria is no perfect saint. Dan Aykroyd’s narration doesn’t help, however; it’s surprisingly unfunny and brown-nosing, verging on the downright corny at times. But such is DeJoria’s basic Everyman-made-good appeal and his overall authentic sincerity that the subjective selectivity of the footage is not too grating and, indeed, you feel the guy has at least earned the acknowledgement of his achievements and generosity. The film is also concrete proof, once more, that money can’t buy taste, because, man, with that dyed facial hair and scraggly ponytail, this poor rich guy, stuck in a look from his 1980s youth, needs a makeover, bad.

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