On the 20-year anniversary of his groundbreaking masterpiece Roger & Me, Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story comes home to the issue he's been examining throughout his career: the disastrous impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans (and by default, the rest of the world). But this time the culprit is much bigger than General Motors, and the crime scene far wider than Flint, Michigan. From Middle America, to the halls of power in Washington, to the global financial epicenter in Manhattan, Michael Moore once again takes filmgoers into uncharted territory. With both humor and outrage, Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story explores a taboo question: What is the price that America pays for its love of capitalism? Years ago, that love seemed so innocent. Today, however, the American dream is looking more like a nightmare as families pay the price with their jobs, their homes and their savings. Moore takes us into the homes of ordinary people whose lives have been turned upside down; and he goes looking for explanations in Washington, DC and elsewhere. What he finds are the all-too-familiar symptoms of a love affair gone astray: lies, abuse, betrayal...and 14,000 jobs being lost every day. Capitalism: A Love Story is both a culmination of Moore's previous works and a look into what a more hopeful future could look like. It is Michael Moore's ultimate quest to answer the question he's posed throughout his illustrious filmmaking career: Who are we and why do we behave the way that we do?
Michael Moore's didactic documentary style is actually a source of inspiration in Capitalism: A Love Story
. This film, which explores the history of incongruence between American capitalism and democracy, is evidently a culmination of Moore's lifetime of research into this topic: he begins the movie by admitting his longstanding interest, rooted in childhood experiences in Flint, Michigan. As a result, the film displays an expertise that is less irritating than in Moore's earlier works, in which various loopholes can be found in one-sided presentations (see Bowling for Columbine
). Here Moore employs his trademark tactics to make a satirical documentary that functions as a film-based, grassroots political strategy meant to provoke revolt. Consisting of patched-together clips from various eras and media outlets, the film weaves a narrative that underscores Moore's argument that while America is a success because of its democracy, it has been denigrated by capitalism, which he calls "a system of taking and giving, mostly taking." Capitalism: A Love Story
is a patriotic call to arms that seeks to ignite rage in the viewer who is tired of political stupidity resulting in poverty and hardship among a dwindling middle class. It begins by tracing the growing gap between the rich and poor, from the Depression through the 1950s "free enterprise" boom. Using clips of FDR and Jimmy Carter warning against greed and inequality, Moore shows how gradually Americans came to accept Reaganomics, corporate corruption, then Bush-era swindling over time. This history serves as context for his explanation of the housing crisis, the collapse of banks, and Bush's covert, last-ditch efforts to pass sketchy bills on the cusp of Obama's election. Moore asks several lawyers, senators, and bankers, "What the **** happened?" and each offers intelligent assessments of situations that many American viewers still struggle to comprehend. Unfortunately, there are corny Moore moments throughout the film, such as when he takes an armored truck to various banking headquarters and harasses security guards to let him in to reclaim money stolen from the American public. Clips of Bush dancing juxtaposed with shots of people crying because they've lost their homes are melodramatic and only weaken Moore's arguments. Like Robin Hood, Moore seeks justice, but his greatest strength is as a translator between those speaking a complex political language and his viewers. Capitalism: A Love Story
, while it does have a condescending tone throughout, does much to relay a complicated history that we all need to know for the sake of our own empowerment. --Trinie Dalton
Stills from Capitalism: A Love Story (Click for larger image)