Yesterday I saw Michael Moore's new documentary, CAPITALISM: A LOVE AFFAIR. It's a curious artifact, falling into two distinct halves.
During the first half, I found myself getting impatient for the same reasons everybody gets impatient with Moore: oversimplification of complex issues, injecting himself egotistically in the middle of his subject, going too often for the cheap and flashy effect. Two examples: First, he represents all landlords who evict non-paying tenants as evil and money-grubbing. Yes, these people have lost their jobs, but some small landlords are also in needful circumstances. I know a woman, for instance, who rents out a duplex, her only asset. One of the tenants has stopped paying rent. But my friend must still pay her mortgage and taxes and utilities on the building, and she needs that rent to buy her own groceries. Moore ignores such two-sided argument.
He also ignores facts that contradict his damning picture of modern capitalism. When he says that "Wall Street bought itself a B actor as president," he leaves out a few steps in the process, such as the fact that Ronald Reagan was governor of California. Now, I hold no brief for Reagan, and I think his deregulation of many key industries led in part to our current mess, but to give the impression that he was a man with no qualifying political experience before he ran for president is to falsify reality. In addition, Moore conveniently overlooks the fact that many of the people now in trouble elected him. Twice. There is something to the idea that people get the governments they deserve.
But when Moore gets out of the way and lets people tell their own stories, in the second half of the film, it becomes genuinely moving. The factory workers at Republic Windows and Doors who staged a successful sit-in to get the back pay and severance packages they had been promised. The Indiana sheriff who flatly refused to evict any more families, leaving children out on the street. The rural couple whose Countrywide loan (and those lenders are genuine villains) kept escalating in monthly payments -- from $1700 to $2000 to $2200 to $2400 -- until they lost the farm. And above all, footage of Franklin Delano Roosevelt giving a press conference on an "American Economic Bill of Rights," which he did not live long enough to implement.
This is an engrossing movie, despite its flaws. When Moore gets himself and his flashy antics out of the way, it's an important movie. Go see it.