Capitalism: A Love Story
“Capitalism: A Love Story” is not my favorite Michael Moore film. However, if someone asked me for a representative Michael Moore documentary I would probably recommend it as a sampler of what can typically be expected. Moore puts all of his signature tricks on display here: clever manipulation of stock footage, use of dramatic music, his attempts to gain access to the office towers of the high and mighty only to be stopped by security, interviews with the disenfranchised, even a quick revisit to “Roger & Me,” (1989) his first documentary. Of course Moore’s biggest signature element is always Moore himself. One can never accuse Mr. Moore of being a “fly on the wall” objective observer. He gets in there and is as much about the subject matter as, well, the subject.
“Capitalism: A Love Story” is fast moving, entertaining, funny and informative. In this new film Moore takes on the negative impacts of capitalism. Anyone who has seen a Moore documentary will know, before buying their ticket, that his point of view will not be pro. Moore covers the expected: workers lose their jobs, the “haves” get more while said workers lose their homes and health insurance (also covered in “Roger & Me” and in Moore’s 2007 film “Sicko”). Meanwhile Wall Street gets bailed out. In addition Moore covers what are perhaps the lesser known fallouts of capitalism such as big firms taking out life insurance policies on employees. The term used by the firms for this practice is “dead peasant insurance.” The firms give none of the insurance benefits to the grieving, expense stricken families of the deceased. The documentary makes a quick stop to illustrate the negative impact of privitization then smoothly segues into a segment on airline pilots being badly underpaid. We jump to the dangers of deregulation. We also hear from religious leaders that capitalism is evil. Moore even touches on social policies that the U.S. government enacted for post WWII Germany and Japan but which we do not have in place for ourselves even today. He talks about FDR’s proposed Second Bill of Rights which would have guaranteed every American health insurance and a decent job. It is a breathless pace, where any two or three topics could have comprised their own documentary, kept lively by clever use of stock footage and Moore’s narration, all of which brings me to the editing.
While Moore’s approach is definitely scattershot the film is, in one sense, well edited. The disparate topics all become united and the transitions between them never feel abrupt. Moore hits many targets, some more strongly than others, and the result is basically satisfying. In another sense though, over all the editing of the entire piece could have been more disciplined. A more focused approach would have made for a tighter, more in depth, documentary. I was reminded of something said by an essay writing teacher during my freshman year of college, “You need to write more and more about less and less.” It is interesting to note that the version shown at the Toronto Film Festival was actually 15 – 22 minutes shorter than the one now in theatres. Did Toronto see a more focused, tighter version? Regardless, what is here is eye opening, thought provoking and disturbing.
Capitalism: A Love Story, diector Michael Moore, 2009,
Paramount Vantage, 127 minutes, rated R