The Films of Michael Moore
Roger & Me
The Big One
Bowling for Columbine
Fahrenheit 9/11 (June 21/04)
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, as many have already noted, is less a documentary and more a 110 minute rant against George W. Bush. Still, the filmmaker does make a fairly convincing argument against the President - painting him as a dimwitted and corrupt politician. But, as was the case with Bowling for Columbine, Moore eventually tires of the subject at hand and goes off on superfluous tangents - severely dulling the film's impact. But the movie is undeniably quite fascinating in its opening hour, with Moore investigating Bush's actions in the moments and days after September 11th. We learn that the bin Laden family has had ties with the Bush's for years, and because of that relationship, certain bin Ladens were allowed to fly out of the States immediately following 9/11. Moore goes on to examine Bush's background before entering politics, which (not surprisingly) is jam-packed with bungled businesses seemingly handed to him by his father. It's also revealed that many high-ranking officials in his cabinet are former business associates, the majority of whom had no prior experience in government. Though there's no denying that Fahrenheit 9/11 packs a substantial wallop, Moore's propensity for digressions - particularly in the film's second half - undermines the effectiveness of his message. It probably doesn't help that the opening 45 minutes lacks Moore's onscreen presence, something that's been his trademark since Roger and Me. While he's not entirely absent - his narration is just as snarky and sarcastic as we've come to expect - it's clear that Moore is more interested in getting a certain amount of information across rather than badgering people on camera. Once Moore has said all he needs to say about Bush - which happens somewhere around the one hour mark - he shifts his focus to other things, including a mother whose son is fighting in Iraq and a pair of marine recruiters trolling Flint malls for volunteers. The film's transition from fast-paced clipfest to more traditional Michael Moore flick is jarring, to say the least. Perhaps Moore's intention was to show the consequences of the Iraq war, but even if that's the case, it doesn't excuse the fact that the movie becomes fairly repetitive towards the end. Still, if Moore's goal was to discredit and undermine Bush, he's succeeded; as a piece of propaganda, the movie excels. But the film's rambling nature prevents it from becoming the riveting piece of work Moore surely intended it to be.
As expected, Sicko primarily comes off as an uneven effort that's sporadically as superfluous as it is interesting - as director Michael Moore saddles the proceedings with an overlong running time and an increased emphasis on entirely needless elements. And while there's no denying the effectiveness of the movie's first two-thirds, it's just as clear that Sicko suffers from a final half hour that's nothing short of interminable. Moore's target this time around is the American health care industry, which - according to the notoriously antagonistic documentarian - is essentially a corrupt and entirely unfixable system that's in dire need of a complete overhaul. To further illustrate his point, Moore offers a look at the effectiveness of socialized health care programs in countries like Canada, Britain, and France - although, admittedly, the filmmaker's penchant for exaggeration does force the viewer to occasionally question the veracity of the movie's facts (ie Canada is far from the medical utopia that Moore relentlessly insists it is). Nevertheless, there's little doubt that Sicko is often as eye-opening as Moore has surely intended - with the inclusion of several intriguing (and undeniably depressing) stories certainly hammering home the film's poignant message. It's only with Moore's (admittedly predictable) decision to emphasize a number of digressions that the movie starts to falter, and - like each of his previous efforts - the end result is a documentary whose overall impact is inevitably diluted by Moore's inability to stay focused.
Capitalism: A Love Story
A typically uneven effort from documentarian Michael Moore, Capitalism: A Love Story explores the pervasively harmful effect that free enterprise has had on American society in the years since the Second World War - with a particular emphasis on the recession that has been escalating since the turn of the century. It's worth noting that Capitalism: A Love Story fares best in its opening hour, as Moore offers up a broad, easy-to-follow overview of the financial crisis and the impact that it's had on various salt-of-the-earth type folks (ie there's a surprisingly moving montage of people being thrown out of their houses). It's only as the 127-minute movie progresses that one's interest slowly but surely begins to dwindle, with Moore's decision to place a growing emphasis on the political nature of the crisis ensuring that one's eyes tend to glaze over on an increasingly frequent basis (ie though he's made his point early on, Moore continues to hammer home his message to an extent that's nothing short of oppressive). The unreasonably academic final half hour - which boasts a long and downright interminable speech from Teddy Roosevelt - feels more like something that one would watch in a political science class than anything else, and it's ultimately clear that Capitalism: A Love Story would've seriously benefited from some judicious editing and a much shorter running time.