Movie Review by Neil Sadler
Starring: Michael Moore, William Black, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Baron Hill
Director: Michael Moore
You know what you are going to get with a Michael Moore film. Even though it is called CAPITALISM – A LOVE STORY, you can pretty safely assume that it comes “to bury capitalism rather praise it.” (Sorry Will!!)
You know too that there will be funny stunts and doors shut in his face. And there will be a message – big business, guns and the American healthcare system is bad and something needs to be done.
Sure enough all that is there – present and correct but I am doing Michael Moore and this film a disservice if I reduce it to these terms. Of all his films, this seems the most personal, the most angry and strangely the most positive.
CAPITALISM is a small film that deals with the consequences of the capitalist system on people’s lives. It is also a big film that discusses mismanagement and greed at the highest level of government and acts as a rallying cry for a new American socialism.
The film works best on the personal level as we meet people whose homes are repossessed by banks that have just been bailed out to the tune of 700 billion dollars. Moore is very silent in these parts and lets the families speak for themselves. These people’s stories, without comment and without obvious editing, condense a major financial crisis down to a human level.
We meet a widow who discovered her husband’s firm had taken out “dead peasant” insurance on her husband without him or her knowing. Left poor by his death she was upset that his employer made $5 million. On a more positive note, we meet a workforce in Chicago who fought against a bank that closed their factory and refused to pay the money they were owed, gradually getting support from the church and the local communities and eventually the President himself.
Beyond the personal Moore looks at the way capitalism has been sold to Americans and how with advent of Ronald Reagan, the banking industry assumed greater and greater control. We see policies that dismantled manufacturing and filtered more and more money into bizarre “gambling” on the stock market.
As a Brit there was a lot of history and politics I didn’t know and Moore is always an engaging storyteller. Mixing vintage clips with modern new footage (perhaps a homage to Adam Curtis) he manages to give a very succinct and powerful take on modern politics and economics and although this is obviously biased towards an American audience, you can see the way that other countries have mimicked the US policies at the behest of big business (and we are all feeling the effects of their crisis.)
There are extraneous bits and because Moore is such a big character himself, there is always the danger that he loses the power of his message by proselytizing and personality. But on the whole he doesn’t. Yes, the message might seem a bit obvious but if the film is designed to anger and provoke then for the most part it succeeds.