A “documentary” by Michael Moore

In a faux-soothing voiceover narrative dripping with sarcasm meant to lull with its gloved malevolence, clownish Michael Moore (Sicko, 2007; Bowling for Columbine; Fahrenheit 9/11; The Awful Truth; Roger & Me) carries the spear yet again for his soapbox. (Not to mix metaphors.) (Too late.)

He plays gotcha with banks and Wall Street institutions, capturing security men impassively holding him off at Goldman Sachs, Merrill, outside Lehman, piteously holding empty money bags for the Market CEOs to toss down money to repay the taxpayer.

A native of Flint, Michigan, where his father worked the GM assembly line, he does close-ups on unemployed Detroit workers and their echoing warehouses and abandoned factories. But while he castigates the headmen at car companies, Moore fails to note that the industry died not because of greed on the part of the car industry, but because the very unions he lionizes in his nasal smart-alecky way charged more than the traffic—literally—could bear. The Japanese and Germans he rhapsodizes over—omitting the finicky point that they waged war to the death with us in the 40s, so their industry went understandably belly-up—are now back on track, charging less because their workers expect less, make less, and have fewer womb-to-tomb satisfactions doled out by their union HQ. They deliver the cars the public seems to want. It wasn’t beauty killed the beast, Michael.

Moore focuses his lens on the crying men and women being foreclosed. Their petite protests calling for the banks to stop ‘hounding’ them are covered in loving close-up. But not once does he discuss the meltdown from its ACORN-, Chris Dodd- and Barney Frank-encouraged mismatched underpinnings: The families could not afford these houses to start with, and foreclosure was an unfortunate foregone conclusion. It wasn’t all due just to the MBS people on Wall Street. These noble people squatting where they are no longer paying back their debts are simply caught red-handed as they tried to rip off the system. Oops! Our bad! pays few dividends in comfy home and hearth. To be sure, many are the culprits behind the meltdown, but this fairy tale is not the exegesis he thinks it is.

He gets cheap laughs throughout by quick, almost subliminal montage cuts of Palin, Cheney; longer and deeper excerpts of Bush 43; and all things GOP. He shows the tearful joy of students when the new guy is elected, shows his overhyped “Change” speech cuts. Taking aim further back, he mocks and derides Reagan for his movie and ad background.

But Moore elides all mention of the corruption that is now emerging, in the $835,000 handed out like Good’n’Plenty to the operatives and thugs of SEIO and ACORN. He gets in a few digs at Madoff, so we know he was tweaking the movie during recent weeks. While he shows the rise of the popularity arrow from candidate McCain to the so-so relative heights of the new guy, he somehow misses showing the equally fast plummet of his chosen in the past months. Fails to show the massive, much larger protests against the new President in townhalls or Washington, DC; fails to even mention that the people who shoe-horned the election results have been definitively exposed, are now disgraced and defunded. Fails to demonstrate the least journalistic responsibility on what might be the positives of Capitalism. Fails to show how, if the first bailout was a snake-oil deal, the recent doings of bailouts and porkulus bills are far more costly, and far more imperiously shoved down the public gullet.

Moore on the current occupant of such deals? He will have none of it.

Of his own millions, his apartment in a tony building in the City, his new office in Michigan, his fat bank balance owing to the same perilous capitalism? We hear nothing, nor any acknowledgment.

Of all the carefully sculpted half-told tales and stuff he pushes, there is one news gobbet that might be viewed as a scoop: He calls into question the dreadful custom of many large corporations of insuring their young workers in case of death. Untold workers died without their wives or husbands being at all aware of the heavy insurance policies their companies had bought against them. This was unconscionable.

This custom stopped, became public knowledge, before the film was complete. It should never have been allowed, and it does seem an unforgivably ghoulish and icy way to add gravy to the bottom line.

Moore also points out how shockingly underpaid many new pilots are; they need to supplement their incomes with waitressing or serving at MacDonald’s. But this is not news.

He has nothing good to say at all about this country, nor has he excavated any positive aphorisms on this exceptional country, from Ben Franklin to our day. He interviews radical priests in their richly appointed and gilded churches, unaware of the irony of these lavishly supported religious criticizing the institution of capitalism. Like Keith Obermann, who never dares entertain a guest who might disagree with him, Moore does not deign to interview anyone who might have a good word for the system that made him the modern Mr. Chutzpah, unshaven and richer than his entire lineage. By a country mile.

CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY, is divorced. From reality.

marion d s dreyfus is a movie reviewer at Rotten Tomatoes .


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