Some people hate Michael Moore; they call him a propagandist with an agenda. Some people love Michael Moore; they call him “a voice crying out in the wilderness,” trying to save our country or society or economy. Michael Moore is a clever documentarian. He’s aware of the hottest issues in America, and knows how to make thought-provoking, controversial films about them. His audience is rewarded with his viewpoint which is thoroughly marinated in humor and irony.
Capitalism: A Love Story begins with the amusing juxtaposition of clips from a vintage documentary about ancient Roman civilization with clips from a variety of situations in modern American society. Moore then shows us things that are happening now: seven sheriff’s cars come to a home in Lexington, North Carolina, and the officers break down the door in order to evict the inhabitants; homes in Detroit are boarded up as residents are evicted; in Peoria, Illinois, a family has 30 days to be out of the modest home they designed on the property that’s been in their family for four generations, but then the sheriff shows up to evict them while they are packing.
We meet a man whose company, Condo Vultures, is in the business of flipping foreclosed condominiums. People’s homes are being bought for 50-75 percent of the market value, and the speculators are raking in the big bucks. It makes one wonder if the bank is willing to sell at such a loss, why don’t they just reduce people’s mortgage payments by 75% — maybe more people could keep their homes. I know, I’m naïve. Threaded throughout are clips from ancient commercials, documentaries explaining capitalism, home movies, and old films. A special note should be made about the music Moore chose to include; it is exquisite.
“This is capitalism, a system of taking and giving. Mostly taking.” And Capitalism: A Love Story is an attack on that system. If Moore thinks that capitalism is a bad thing that we should eliminate, does he suggest an alternative? Yes, and surprisingly it’s not socialism, it’s democracy.
The $700 billion Wall Street bailout is the star of Capitalism: A Love Story, and learning how that came about may make viewers angry. It should, whether you agree or disagree with Moore. My reaction to the bailout was that if anyone gets money it should be the people that were hurt by all the economic shenanigans, not the [insert string of expletives here] who caused it. I tried to imagine $700 billion dollars, but couldn’t. Breaking it down, I imagined about $2300 for every person—adult or child—living in America. Then I thought, why not? Distribute the money to the people who need it, not the lucky ones like me who are comfortably middle class, but the people who so obviously need help. Those people are not obvious to the ones who got that $700 billion, of course, because they don’t travel the highways and back roads that we peasants travel. Okay, so now I’m beginning to sound like Michael Moore.