I think it’s pretty safe to say that filmdom has never seen a documentarian that has generated more conversation than Michael Moore. It’s incredibly safe to say that no documentarian has EVER generated more box office revenue than Moore since he took the world by storm with Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11. Personally, I’ve seen all of Moore’s films, including his first two films – Roger and Me and the underrated The Big One – except for his last film, Sicko, because, well, I haven’t had the need to go to a doctor in years. However, Moore has certainly found a topic that everyone can relate to with his new film, Capitalism: A Love Story, with the state of our lovely economy, a film that is one of his most mature films to date and quite an eye-opener.
While his films have always been quite the eye-openers, one of the only problems I have had with his films was this sort of pompous way he went about presenting his case. He would come off as the guy who knew would win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season and would make sure to let everyone know that he was right when they won – usually not throughout his entire films, but surely at least in parts of them. It seems that this film was done with a bit more of a level head and we also see a drop in these semi-shady ways he would present his case. While it made for a powerful ending to Bowling for Columbine, I was kind of disgusted with how he set up an interview with Charlton Heston under false pretenses only to railroad the guy on film. We really don’t see any of that here, which was a welcome sight, and the film seems to be less about his grandstanding tactics and more about the actual facts. While we do still see it there are fewer scenes of these average Americans crying on camera, which is effective but, in my opinion, a tad exploitive. Now, I am not a politico or an economist by any means, so I can’t really speak on educated manner on how right or wrong Moore is in presenting his case, but from a layman’s point of view, I have to say he does present some intriguing situations as to how this clusterf*ck we call the economy came to be.
Of course, we still do see a lot of Moore’s humorous injections of old pop culture references, mainly 50s-style informational films or classroom films, and there’s even a rather hilarious overdubbing of a film about Jesus Christ, a scene that will likely be one of the more controversial scenes in the film. Moore is quite a genius when it comes to mixing doses of humor in with the factual content, and much of the factual content is humorous itself, presented in Moore’s unique context. This film is actually one of Moore’s broadest films, as he not only schools us on the state of the economy and how it got to be this way – taking us all the way back to the 50s and 60s when everything was hunky-dory – and mixing it in with real people who have been screwed over by the system. We watch as a family is forced out of their home after falling for one of those refinancing schemes, a widower who was sickened to learn that her husband’s employer took out a life insurance policy on him and was paid almost $2 million upon his death – a totally legal (for now) process known as “Dead Peasants” policies by the corporations – and we also see another family whose wife/mother has passed away at a young age, which netted $81,000 from these “Dead Peasants” policies to her employer: Wal-Mart. It was rather sickening to learn that the largest retailer in the country would feel the need to snag an extra $81,000 off the death of one of their “associates.” Add on the tales of airline pilots and how disgustingly-low they’re paid – one who wouldn’t show his face revealed he was even on food stamps for four months while he was flying – and many others and it all adds up to quite a compelling tale.
Like he’s explored in previous films, Capitalism: A Love Story deals quite a bit with fear and how it’s used to control the American public, but the great thing I really loved about this film is it actually doesn’t end on a downer. Obviously Moore and the entire nation was celebrating Obama’s election, but Moore takes it a step farther and shows us a few brief tales of folks who were inspired to make the “change” everyone was talking about for themselves, like the Detroit sheriff who outlawed foreclosure sales in his city or the workers of a Chicago window factory who staged a sit-in so Bank of America would pay them what was due to them, which rallied the support of the nation including Obama who mentioned their plight in a national press conference. He shows us that regular folks like you and I actually HAVE changed and he implores you all to do the same by film’s end. By the way, stick around for the credits as there is a very nice mix of websites to visit (including his own MichaelMoore.com), and random facts, quotes and updates on the people and stories shown in the film.
Capitalism: A Love Story is quite a wonderful film that not only exposes some of the hidden truths about our government, the economic and corporate systems, but it’s actually a call to action for viewers to “change” themselves. He’s really saying that he needs your help to make the kinds of changes necessary to better this country, and after watching this film, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got that help in spades.