Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)

Overture Films, 127 min., Dir. Michael Moore

My political views are no mystery to anyone who knows me, and this is supposed to be a blog about film and entertainment, so I will do anyone reading a favor and omit the majority of my stump speech.

I’m no lover of the capitalist economic system because it stresses accumulation over concern for individual happiness and welfare, as Mr. Moore demonstrates in his film.

Moore is reviled on the left and right, and I think he gets a bad rap because of his stupid antics which cater to the type of audience that wouldn’t watch this film in the first place, the people who don’t vote or care at all how civics operate in this country. I’ll now pull a Family Guy style cutaway gag to demonstrate my point. Here’s what you might have witnessed if Moore had called me up prior to filming this movie and you were in the room watching me talk to him:

Hey Michael, how’s it hangin’ bud.

Oh yeah, your new movie.

You say you want to drive an armored car up to a Wall Street bank and ask for the taxpayers’ money back. I’m not so sure about that. It didn’t really work in Roger and Me when you asked the President of GM for an interview and–

oh wait, what’s that–

You’re going to go back to GM to do the same exact thing you did in 1989. Ahh…um…I see. You know what, I’m getting another call.

No, I’ll call you back. Go Michigan! (scene)

Moore’s at his best when he’s explaining to you how everything is Washington is just a cash grab, but a lot of his stunts really wear thin after a while. The films are composed primarily of alternating human interest/soft news pieces, images of important people standing together who shouldn’t be standing together, redacted documents, and dumb antics like those described above.

I’m not a hard sell on his line of thinking, and even I was getting a little tired of having peoples’ personal tragedies paraded around like so much cheap filler. I suppose I weary of Moore hogging the spotlight. He turns all of his films into a documentary about his personal outrage rather than the subjects in the documentary itself. Notice how he not only conducts, but is pictured in all of the interviews; he also assumes this aggravating, child-like inflection in his voiceovers (example: “I asked Mr. Executive for an interview, but he said noooooo. I caaaan’t imagine whiiiee“). Can the fake sarcasm already, sheesh.

The film closes on a revolutionary note, basically inciting people to take action against an unfair system of laws that privileges the wealthy one percent of our population which people fruitlessly try to join. Hey buddy, the financial system isn’t doing me any favors, but what should I do, go smash up an ATM because I have no money? Any freshman in college will tell you that it’s a self-replicating system, and until I’m in a rebellion wearing a red armband and throwing fire bombs at armored cars, I don’t see a whole lot of outlets for my frustrations other than Buy Nothing Day.

I also got the sense that Moore is tired of defending himself against conservative rebuttals because he either just doesn’t care to win over the opposition anymore (that is, he’s just preaching to the choir at this point) or because he sees the intransigence and corruption of government officials as an insurmountable obstacle that needs to be burned down instead of sidestepped.

I could try to salvage some of the facts presented in the film and toss them out here, but the truth is that it’s a challenge to watch a Moore film and separate fact from schmaltz. I’ve seen plenty of documentaries that can offer a more balanced opinion, but mainstream films like this rely on emotionally charged interviews with sobbing women and enraged men to make their points for them. If you’re going to make a film that educates the public on a critical issue (and, yes, the oppression of workers and the willful destruction of the middle class in this country is a critical issue), step up your game from the “Everyday Hero” and “Real American” soft news tripe served up by the 6:00 evening news.

5/10: Hey wealthiest one percent, take a tip from Moore: The time is now to quicken the pace on your pleasure palace construction projects before this whole capitalism thing falls apart!!