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Capitalism: A Love Story

Dir: Michael Moore

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Overture Films

117 Minutes

The cynical view on Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore’s latest film, would be that people will enter already embracing or rejecting the filmmaker’s politics. Moore is not an objective documentarian and his prior films such as Bowling for Columbine, Sicko and Fahrenheit 9/11 made no bones about targeting America’s love for violence, the health care system and the illegitimate presidency of George W. Bush.

Such a belief, that liberals will love Capitalism and the conservatives will hoot and holler, is the easy way out. My mother has a friend in Florida who liked to take me fishing, show me Janine Lindemulder porn, eat fried chicken and profess his hatred for minorities. This is the guy with an American eagle as his screensaver and a big, red pick-up truck. When Fahrenheit came out, he called to tell me how much the movie had affected him. He voted for Barack Obama last year.

So what does that story have to do with Moore’s latest, a film that proposes that capitalistic America is poised for destruction much like the end of the Roman Empire? It really doesn’t try to skewer conservatives. It goes after the rich elite, the 1% that has more money than most of our other citizens combined. And it tries to get that other 99% of our population pissed off enough so they, to quote another movie, take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down.

Capitalism follows a similar template to Moore’s other films. It is a hodgepodge of talking head interviews, history lessons, guerilla film and archival news footage. Moore tends to underestimate his audience in some instances, however. Rather than letting the footage speak for itself, he underscores some of the tough stuff with melodramatic music to highlight its gravity. A minor quibble, but I think we don’t need to be spoon-fed when to feel bad.

Moore’s movies stand as testaments of our era and it’s the implementation of scenes of real life when Moore is on top of his game. Did you know corporations take out life insurance on employees they call Dead Peasant policies, collecting millions when they die while spouses have nothing? Did you know that some towns, like Wilkes-Barre, PA, have corrupt judges that get kickbacks from privately run juvenile detention facilities? Do you know what some of those fuckers from AIG and Goldman Sachs did with their bailout money? Moore is more than happy to indulge us to these and other awful truths.

“I refuse to live in a country like this, and I’m not leaving,” Moore proclaims at the end of the film. He wants to make us angry; he wants to provoke. Much like his first film, Roger and Me, Moore makes it clear that he sees the blight of GM’s destruction of his hometown of Flint spreading throughout our nation. He is also given a chance to crow at GM’s bankruptcy, something he predicted 20 years ago in Roger. However, I don’t necessarily enjoy some Moore’s tactics, such as when he tries to storm the GM building. It’s the people he is siding with, the hapless security guards and secretaries, who bear the impact of his stunts, not the corporate fat cats secluded in offices in aeries high above. Though he does keep the antics to a minimum this time around, perhaps Moore needs to rethink that specific strategy.

Moore does not choose party lines and it’s not Democrat vs. Republican in Capitalism. Democrat Christopher Dodd is trotted out as a phony just as much as some of those in the Bush administration. It’s not that Michael Moore is anti-capitalism. He’s just against the United States version of it. Something about the current model is not working. The most effective moment in the film, however, does not come from Moore, footage from Hurricane Katrina or anything else from this young century. No, that shining honor goes to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who months before his death, gave a rousing speech outlining a second Bill of Rights claiming that “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” He never lived to see that promise delivered. After so many years of insouciant greed, Moore pins his hopes on Obama to reverse the wide swath of destruction that began with the election of Ronald Reagan. In a time where more and more people are out of work, Capitalism provides a sobering solution to the system that has disenfranchised so many by making so few filthy rich.

by David Harris

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