Capitalism: A Love Story is typical modern Michael Moore. The film bluntly states “all is not well in America and here are several examples” without much in the way of sound arguments or practical solutions to back them up. Well, no real answers outside of adopting socialism.
This isn’t the scathing, witty Michael Moore who once singlehandedly took on General Motors in 1989′s Roger and Me. He traded in that credibility years ago for mass appeal showmanship and (ironically) financial success. Where he may have exposed the heart of issues in America in the past, Moore’s strategy this time is a scattershot approach to capitalism, blasting with the benefit of hindsight and rarely hitting the mark.
It’s a directionless diatribe that raises a valid point on occasion, but its compelling substance is packaged in with the meaningless clutter of anecdotes and cheap stunts. What’s the point of putting a face to a crisis many Americans faced themselves? Or harassing yet another set of security guards earning their own wage? Neither move the conversation forward, but rather languish in a helpless mentality or strive for an easy laugh. Driving an armored car up to a bank and asking for bailout money doesn’t prove anything other than Moore has money to burn on truck rentals.
This hokey entertainment is even more futile when compared to a sit down staged by Chicago factory workers. This effort is shown in the film just before Moore’s joy ride through the Financial District. The united, blue collar employees were being treated unfairly by Republic Windows and Doors, so they locked themselves in the building, risked incarceration, and refused to emerge until their demands were met. This is the kind of event that warrants attention, not pretending to stage a citizen’s arrest and getting as far as the escalators.
The sprawling documentary tackles too many subjects, raising grievances amidst its massive topic then leaving them underdeveloped and unresolved. It opens with comparisons to the Roman Empire, a grandiose exaggeration accomplished by splicing the decadence of the era with shots of Washington. Will this be explained or mentioned again? Of course not.
Soon a few holy men are being questioned on the preferred economic model of Jesus (hint: it isn’t capitalism). This sets up some juicy hypocrisy as a priest says he’s in awe of propaganda’s power. Psst, you’re part of religion… Even better, the millionaire filmmaker points out the financial crisis made a select few rich, while lining his pockets with the profits of his own exploitation. Perhaps things were getting too serious because then Moore’s smarmy voice over is replaced by a humor bit about Jesus giving financial advice. That’s getting to the bottom of things, Michael.
Complex lending problems are oversimplified while other concepts are written off as far too confusing, which are then exaggerated or downplayed according to the relentless agenda. Instead of attempting to understand, Moore considers Wall Street terms like derivatives deliberately complicated and tags them with a “they wanted it that way” conspiracy theory that is, of course, not supported. Rather than break it down to basics like before, Moore stands outside the financial institution and shouts for help from passing brokers. One gives the advice, “Stop making movies.”
Overall, Capitalism: A Love Story is less partisan than Moore’s previous shoutings, thankfully hammering both sides of the political aisle for crimes against citizens. He succeeds once again in provoking his audience (good or bad), and hopefully the ensuing debate will develop into a more meaningful discussion. Ultimately your political ideology will determine your enjoyment of the material and the level of tolerance for his shenanigans.
In the end, Moore says in resignation, “I can’t keep doing this” and delivers a final call to arms. This coupled with Moore’s public hints of a return to narrative cinema means there’ll be a void in the world of documentaries. We can only hope he’s replaced by a talent who can present a strong case of irrefutable facts rather than a radically one-sided argument barely passable as entertainment.
1.5 out of 5.