CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY
* (out of 5)
October 2, 2009
Michael Moore as HIMSELF
Studio: Overture Films
Directed by: Michael Moore
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
The day before I saw “Capitalism: A Love Story,” I got in a quick debate with a Michael Moore fan about the controversial filmmakers and the merits of his movies. My take was that, outside of politics, he’s a manipulative sleazebag who twists the truth in his non-documentaries.
After laying down example after example (including the real reason why Cuba has such a low infant mortality rate, the bait-and-switch and ambush techniques he’s used since “Roger & Me” and the fact the guy owns stock in some of the biggest names in corporate greed), she simply shrugged her shoulders and said that the ends justify the means.
I suppose if you agree with my critical adversary, you are going to love “Capitalism: A Love Story.” But to the discerning mind, this film is easily his worst movie to date. (Actually, “Slacker Uprising,” his 2007 direct-download indictment of the 2004 election was his worst film… but that doesn’t count because it never got a theatrical release due to the fact the movie packed no punch after Bush won the election).
If you can’t tell by now, I’m a capitalist. I believe in the free market system. Does it get abused? Sure. Are there problems with our current economic climate? Absolutely. However, I want to make it clear that I do not agree with Michael Moore’s ultimate message that it should be scrapped in favor of across-the-board socialism. And make no mistake: this is his message.
Rather than spend my time debating capitalism over socialism, let’s look at Moore’s film and see how he has truly lost his edge.
The movie begins like so many of his other films (in particular, “Roger & Me” and “Sicko”), featuring people who have fallen on hard times and are getting evicted from under a bad mortgage. We spend about a half hour with Moore’s nasally, sing-song, intelligence-insulting narration, which explains how Ronald Reagan set the stage for our economy to collapse in 2008.
By the end of the film, Moore takes a scattershot approach at political leaders (mostly Republicans, but to his credit does skewer some Democrats like Christopher Dodd, Robert Rubin and Bill Clinton) and the banking industry. However, there is very little focus in this film as he jumps from a sit-down protest in Chicago to Obama’s election victory to FDR’s call for a Second Bill of Rights.
While Moore has never been a humble filmmaker, his ego works overtime in “Capitalism: A Love Story.” Rather than offering any solution aside from unbridled socialism, he caps his film with goofy stunts, like driving an armored truck down Wall Street and demanding to get the citizens’ money back and wrapping crime scene police tape around the buildings’ entrances.
This film, more than any of his other ones, is not about anything but Michael Moore. He puts himself up as the savior but doesn’t do anything outside of a bad sketch that wouldn’t even work on Jay Leno’s show.
Over the years, Moore’s films have become less tongue-in-cheek and more darkly brooding. There’s very little humor in “Capitalism: A Love Story,” and when there are laughs, it’s bittersweet. Moore rehashes scenes and conventions from his older films like “Roger & Me,” “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Sicko,” which is sad because it seems that he’s tapped his creativity dry. Deep down, there is a good satirical filmmaker in the man but it’s going to waste.
The biggest strike, however, with this film is its hypocrisy. Here’s a man taking shots at capitalism, and he’s the biggest capitalist in Hollywood. He claims that big business takes advantage of the little guy, yet he screwed over people in his movies going back to Rhonda Britton and Fred Ross in “Roger & Me.” He shakes his finger at companies that insure their workers (which is abhorrent, by the way, but has nothing to do with capitalism) because they profit off the death of others, yet he’s the one who made tens of millions off the death of those who died in the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent military actions. He bemoans “the wealthiest one percent of Americans” who make a killing in the stock market, yet his portfolio has included companies like Haliburton, Tyco and WorldCom.
If you can look past Michael Moore’s ego, his politics and his hypocritical half-truths, you’ll love this movie. But for the average American who doesn’t believe the ends justify the means, you’ll probably be left with a bad taste in your mouth.