Is this Gossip Girl? The trailer for Kevin Asch's Affluenza seems to be a younger, more debaucherous version of the CW series we knew and loved: It has teens behaving badly, falling in love, and generally giving off a Gatsby vibe. While Affluenza and Gossip Girl do have a lot in common, the up-and-coming star of MTV's Faking It, Gregg Sulkin, hopes that teens can learn something from his Affluenza character, Dylan.
Part of what Sulkin loves most about the film is the fact that it shows a different, more accessible perspective from the generation that's inheriting the broken economy. The 22-year-old British actor tells me, "I think it’s a very important message to send to people, if it saves a few people in the younger generation from going bankrupt in a few years."
Dylan is a poster child for the rich kid with absentee parents who's desperately searching for the emotional connection he's missing. At the start of the film, he's molded into the image of Gatsby, this wealthy, happy-go-lucky guy who's throwing these huge, over-the-top parties to get one girl's attention, Nicola Peltz's Kate Miller. But, when asked to describe him, Sulkin says that Dylan's "a fun, cool guy gone bad," referring to the character's manic decline into emotional distress when Peltz's Kate strings him along and rejects him.
What are we supposed to take away from Sulkin's performance? "I think it can definitely help people," he says of both Dylan's fate and the fate of his family following the 2008 economic collapse. But ultimately, addressing the crisis through the eyes of the younger generation, he's hoping that they won't make the same mistakes as their parents. Sulkin says, "hopefully people will go and learn that by watching the film, they’ll go and research some stuff, and obviously try to be more financially aware so that it doesn’t happen to as many of us."
While the film does overindulge in rich teen stereotypes, the depth of its darkness and the clarity of its message are staggering. Dylan might be a modern-day Gatsby, but he's also a cautionary tale for the next generation.
Affluenza hits theaters and On Demand July 11.