Joe's Movie Reviews

Friday, October 23, 2009

Capitalism: A Love Story

I'd imagine that very nearly everyone has already decided what to think about this movie just because it's made by Michael Moore. Either it's an evil, communist conspiracy designed to tear down everything that's great about this country, or else it's perfect and utterly beyond any kind of criticism. I'll try to approach it as just another movie and hope that readers will take it on the same terms, whatever their politics may be. I suppose my own politics will inevitably show through... it's in the nature of any review of a film like this, I suppose... but this is going to be a movie review, not a political rant.

In this movie, Moore takes as his subject something that he's addressed briefly in some of his other movies, particularly his first, "Roger And Me"... the capitalist system by which the country is run, what it used to be at one time and what it has since become, and what might possibly be done to set the country back on course to being what it used to be. Obviously, it's a topic that stirs up extremely fierce debate. Let's try to not tear each other's throats out about it and attempt to discuss it without too much violence.

Among the most common criticism of Moore is that he doesn't present any other point of view in his films but his own. This is something I've never worried about: Moore is making the movie equivalent of newspaper or TV editorials, the whole POINT of which is to present the maker's personal opinions. Do Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly give the other point of view? For that matter, did Ben Stein give a liberal point of view in that Moore-like documentary he starred in about a year ago? And on the liberal side, Al Gore didn't exactly give non-global-warming advocates equal time in "An Inconvenient Truth". I also approach a Moore movie perfectly willing to accept his assurances that he loves his country and BECAUSE of that wants to see it become the best it can be. To be frank, it's actually inspiring at times to see how dedicated he is to that cause.

There can hardly be any dispute, whatever you think of his arguments, that Moore knows how to make a politically oriented documentary very entertaining. The opening sequence of an old movie about the Roman Empire accompanied by a narrator describing the things that brought it to collapse, accompanied by lightning-quick clips of contemporary American life with very direct parallels to the narration is both hysterically funny and somewhat frightening. The clip from "Jesus Of Nazareth" with dubbed dialogue from Christ in which, for example, he refuses to heal a man, saying "I cannot be responsible for his pre-existing condition", gets across Moore's point about what Christ would REALLY have thought about the state of health care and the economy today more memorably that any talking head. And the George W. Bush speach about the soundness of our economy featuring background animation of the building he's speaking in collapsing around him while people run by screaming and on fire... a real stitch.

But Moore has a serious message to impart, and it's not all jokes. We see clear examples of how benevolent the capitalist system used to be in the thirties through the fifties, even into the sixties... providing good jobs at fair wages, paid vacations and safe working conditions, never (well, hardly ever) taking unfair advantage of the poor. A system truly deserving of being called the best in the world. But even though Moore has often been accused of fudging the facts in his documentaries by choosing to present the facts only in ways that bolster his arguments, it cannot be disputed that, for instance, the major Wall Street wizard he interviews really DID say that "Capitalism is more important than democracy". And the sheriff evicting families really DID remark about groups attempting to re-occupy foreclosed properties "If people are living in these houses, people who want to purchase them won't have any place to live". Companies with names like Mortgage Vulture really DO take pride in how many people they can put out of their homes without caring about whether they have any place to go. And most frigtheningly, companies really DO take out "Dead Peasant" insurance policies (that's really what they're called) on their employees, so that when an employee dies, the company can benefit to the tune of millions of dollars while their family struggles to make ends meet. As Moore remarks, "There's a REASON I can't, or shouldn't, take out a policy against your home burning down, because that gives me a vested interest in your home burning down". If even HALF of what Moore is telling us is true... and I find it diffifult to believe it isn't more than that... then something is definitely wrong and needs to be fixed.

And Moore absolutely DOES believe that's possible. In spite of the amazing number of people I've heard commenting about the gloom & doom of the movie's conclusion, it is in fact inspirational. We see employee-owned-and-operated companies providing their staff with full benefits while actually making a decent profit (for those who think Moore is completely against the idea of profit). We see people using the power of the vote to change their situation (and are reminded that the richest 1% still only has 1% of the vote, while the rest of us have the other 99). We see large groups of citizens who have decided they've had enough of greed dominating the course of the country and decided to do something about it. And for folks who are convinced that Moore is a depraved socialist who thinks every single rich person is the devil, we even see level-headed, sensible quotes from people like Warren Buffet ("It's class warfare, and my class it winning... but it shouldn't be."

"Capitalism: A Love Story" IS a story about love: a man who loves his country, and is afraid of the direction he sees it going in. But a man who has NOT given up on the possibility of it being able to be repaired. He closes the film with "I refuse to live in a nation like this... and I'm not moving." If you think there's nothing that NEEDS to be fixed, that statement will probably upset you. But if you believe in America and want to see it live up to all of its potential, then you can only hope that the arguments Moore makes in this film will be heard across party and liberal/conservative lines (I should point out that Democrats take it on the chin in this movie as much as Republicans), and as a result we will be able to change, if not the world, then our own little portion of it.


Post a Comment

<< Home