I cannot claim to be a big fan of Michael Moore, nor can I claim any great knowledge of the subjects he chooses to cover. Not to say that I'm completely ignorant, but let's just say that it's not my strong suit. If nothing else, Moore makes entertaining pieces of docu-propaganda that work well as conversation starters — wonderful conversation starters filled with personality, humor, and a vigor not found in many documentaries.
There are very few documentary filmmakers who can open a film in a wide theatrical release, and Moore is at the top of the pile. Sicko is an affecting film that covers much of what is common knowledge (that being our health care system is seriously broken) and delivers it in an entertaining, if at times depressing, manner that is eminently watchable, if not quite as deep as it could have possibly been. Again, film as conversation starter.
The film was garnering attention very early in its production. I recall that at some point health care companies were sending memos to employees warning them that Michael Moore may be coming around to ask questions, and urging them not to speak with him should he make an appearance.
Moore and Sicko were again in the news earlier this year when the US government was investigating him for breaking the trade embargo with regard to his trip to Cuba with rescue workers from Ground Zero who were not receiving the care they required. The stories went on to say how Moore had taken the original negatives and was storing them at locations where they would be safe from seizure by the government. Lastly, there was the posting of the entire film on YouTube, and its subsequent removal. All of this adds up to free publicity and spin fodder for Moore to use in the film's promotion.
Michael Moore takes aim at the US health care system, how damaged it is, some of the reasons why that came to be, as well as showcasing the successes of the universal systems in four other countries (Canada, England, France, and Cuba). Besides all of the horror stories that Moore has picked to illustrate the failures of the system that have resulted in tragic death, debt, and other effects on the family, it brings up the question: if it works so well for those other countries, why can't it here? Well, the first answer would have to be that the insurance companies wouldn't allow it. The second would be that the lobbyists have Congress in their pocket. Mix and match to your heart's content. Surprisingly, Moore seemed to go rather easy on the government, aside from the pro-Clinton/anti-Bush sentiment (which seemed a bit out of place in this context). Still, the questions are there, and run deep throughout all of the archival footage, interviews, US horror stories, and foreign fairy tales.
I have learned to take all of Moore's facts with a grain of salt. Sure, there is a ton of truth to what he says, but there is also a lot of editorial discretion in how the facts are presented, ensuring that they back his vision. There always seems to be a "this is the truth, just not the whole truth" clause. Fortunately, I do not expect, nor require, all sides of the issue to be contained in the work. My main focus is the entertainment factor, the thought-provoking factor — does it succeed at the filmmaker's purpose? The answer is yes.
Sicko shows us just how badly the current health care system has failed so many, to heartbreaking effect. I am sorry I cannot recall all of their names, but the stories they shared of their personal issues, of loved ones lost, and of those working within the system are enough to bring a tear to your eye. It makes me hope that I never find myself in a similar situation, but with the way the system goes, who knows what the future holds? By the same token, Moore does not really show any of the shortcomings of the foreign universal systems. I am sure that they have their issues, but again, not really the point. The main point is that their systems work worlds better than our own.
Bottom line. This is a very good film. It again shows how well Moore can present material of a rather dry nature, and keep an audience interested for two hours and take them through laughs and tears. Again, I would not dare swallow this as the whole truth, but it is still a movie that will make you think about something you may already know, and perhaps allow you to come away with a new perspective.