CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY (2009)
Featuring Michael Moore, Thora Birch, William Black, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Baron Hill, Marcy Kaptur, Wallace Shawn, Elizabeth Warren and archival footage of George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Nancy Davis, Martin Luther King, Helmut Kohl, Bela Lugosi, John McCain, Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Robert Powell, Ronald Reagan, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joseph Stalin.
Written by Michael Moore.
Directed by Michael Moore.
Distributed by Overture Films. 126 minutes. Rated R.
Michael Moore has always been a polarizing force during his now twenty-year long filmmaking career. Many viewers love Moore’s populist muckraking, but just as many despise him for his progressive (okay, let’s just say it, liberal…) points of view.
I have always been in the first camp. I believe that Moore is an extremely talented filmmaker. Not necessarily to say he is a documentarian, because documentaries are supposed to give impartial, balanced testimony and Moore’s films are nothing if not opinionated.
My politics also tend to skew in the same direction as Moore’s – though that does not mean that I would buy one of his films out of hand. Both as entertainment and information, Moore has always worked hard to bring the goods. I always find it fascinating that so many of Moore’s detractors loudly decry his movies for inaccuracies, and yet they inevitably can not come up with any specific examples where he is wrong on points of fact.
With Capitalism: A Love Story, Moore takes perhaps his most controversial stance yet.
All of the economic evils in the United States are essentially attributable to a financial concept. Unchecked capitalism has given big business an excuse to put their bottom lines before the greater good of the society, creating a divided country of haves and have nots.
However, while the film has some wonderful sections, it is also his most disjointed film yet.
Perhaps Moore is taking on too broad a subject this time. His previous film Sicko brilliantly skewered health insurance. Previous works have taken pointed looks at gun control (Bowling for Columbine), the Bush/Cheney administration (Fahrenheit 9/11) and corporate downsizing (Roger & Me).
Capitalism: A Love Story takes more of a big umbrella approach to the economic woes of the United States. Moore takes on all sorts of somewhat intertwined subjects, including mortgage foreclosures, privatization of federal services, the death of the middle class, the auto industry collapse and bank bailouts.
Each and every one of these subjects is absolutely worthy of a full-length examination by Moore – however, here he seems determined to create his manifesto.
Unchecked capitalism is inherently evil, Moore says, and he is determined to show you how.
Most of these examples are truly shocking, like for example the example of a privatized Wilkes Barre PA Youth Detention Center which entered a covert agreement with a local judge to imprison local teens – for a great profit. Then there are the major corporations which are covertly taking out life insurance policies on their employees, so that if those employees die the companies will make a windfall profit – literally making the workers more valuable dead than alive. These policies are humanely called “dead peasant” policies.
Another even more shocking segment has Citibank declaring in a secret email that the US is now a plutocracy, a society where the 1% of society that owns the great majority of the wealth can live high off the hog while the rest of the world suffers – as long as the workers do not realize they are being mistreated and revolt.
Moore even goes so far as to show some examples in modern America where socialism is not necessarily a bad word, in fact it brings better results than the more profit-driven alternatives. However, after Sicko, which both conservatives and liberals could agree with, having Moore make even a partial suggestion of socialism will undoubtedly polarize his audience again. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose, but still I can see this giving Sarah Palin all sorts of talking points.
Watching this on video release, months after the original theatrical run also shows how much current events have somewhat tarnished Moore’s bright hypothesis of hope and change. Seeing again how excited that the US was upon Barack Obama’s election as President is now a little bittersweet as partisan politics, congressional cowardice, Tea Party extremists and the President’s unwillingness to push things harder over Republican interference has led to a partially unfair sense of political gloom.
On the other hand, occasionally Moore falls back on old tricks – like going up to banks with a burlap sack asking for the people’s money back, tying a crime scene tape around Wall Street or yet again trying to get into the GM building, a task he has been failing at since 1989 with Roger & Me.
With all of these little things conspiring against the film, Capitalism: A Love Story is probably the first Moore film that I would sometimes call a slight miss. Much of it is of vital importance and should be seen, but Moore does not quite corral all of his ideas this time around. Still, having too many ideas is a hell of a lot better than the alternative. The world needs rabble-rousers to keep greed and corruption in check and Michael Moore is still one of the best. Even second best Michael Moore is more vital than most political films.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 2, 2010.