There is a certain joy in watching a Michael Moore movie. Moore, with his definitive point of view, lives in a simple world — a world of great evil, but it is still a simple world, a world with no gray, only easy to understand black and white. It is a point of view which provides a definite amount of comfort, even if the world is an evil one.
Moore, the writer and director of a multitude of well-known and well-regarded documentaries, constructs clear, concise stories in which he places himself in the center as the white knight, the good guy who is there to remove all evil – which tends to consist of the rich and powerful cheating "regular folks" – from the world. His latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story, keeps the theme going perfectly.
The basic story that Capitalism tells is that of evil corporations who have managed to wrest control of our government from the people by purchasing elected officials. Moore explains how this process was grossly accelerated during Ronald Reagan's time and brought our country to the massive financial issues it faced in 2008, which were then "solved" by the country wrongly bailing out the corporations that had started the mess in the first place.
Moore goes beyond this, delving not only into the evil that corporations do, but giving examples of how they don't have to be quite so evil. He shows how some companies are run by the workers and successful, conjuring up that much maligned word, socialism. Though it won't actually placate any capitalist devotees in the audience, he does manage to include a bit about how our Constitution doesn't actually mention capitalism as our economic system anywhere, no matter what we have been taught.
Interestingly, and as is the case with so many of Moore's films, the film boils down a very complicated story, one with multiple sides, into not just a black and white story, but a black and white story which features the American public being treated as stupid. Moore, of course, with his overly-simplified account, is also treating the public as stupid. It is not the place of this review to argue whether Moore and his point of view are right or wrong – that is most definitely a discussion for economists, politicians, and eventually historians – but unquestionably the argument Moore constructs is a simplified one.
The issue to be dealt with here is less the factuality of his claims and more as to whether or not he has created a compelling narrative that intrigues viewers, and there he has succeeded. The gross simplicity of his argument does hurt the viewing of the piece as it is all too easy to say "Hey, wait a minute, what about…" and thereby be taken out of what Moore is discussing. However, the documentarian is a master of quickly flipping from moment to moment, idea to idea, story to story, and outlandish stunt to outlandish stunt, thereby keeping the audience from having too much time to hover over any of his ideas.
Perhaps though the biggest problem with the film is that, having made so many pieces which criticized the government and/or corporations in the past, much of Capitalism has a "been there, done that" feel. In this piece, not only does Moore show clips from earlier films, but when he goes by GM Headquarters to try and talk to the Chairman, the security guard seems less angry and more weary as he states, "It's Michael Moore here to see the Chairman." Even he is all too used to Moore's well worn tactics.
That is not to say that film is not without its good stunts, the highlight of which may be Moore driving around an armored Brinks truck, taking it to the headquarters of various financial institutions, and demanding that they return the bailout money as they have, essentially, stolen it. It is a ridiculous tactic, one which no one could ever take seriously, but it is great theater.
The Blu-ray release of Capitalism: A Love Story is a mixed bag. As with all of Moore's pieces, this film features not only footage shot specifically for the film but many things that were filmed (or videotaped) earlier by other people for other purposes and which have been repurposed here. Consequently, the quality of the video and audio varies wildly. Moments shot specifically for Capitalism look clear and have great levels of detail; scenes taken from elsewhere sometimes look good and sometimes don't. The same is true for the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track. Although the film doesn't boast tons of explosions and special effects, scenes shot specifically for this film are dialogue-heavy, but the dialogue is crisp and even. Music and the occasional effect plays out in the surrounds, but don't look for a Bruckheimer-style piece. Perhaps surprisingly, the bass is actually well-used for the music and effects, which does make it feel like more than a simple documentary.
Bonus features included on the Blu-ray release seem to be limited to extended and deleted scenes from the film itself. They are not billed as such, which is certainly odd, but watching them, one will recognize longer versions of interviews and segments that appear in the film as well as a few moments which one could imagine having fit into the main piece at one point.
Capitalism: A Love Story may be more evenhanded in the way it deals with politicians than other Moore films — it hits Democrats almost as hard as it does Republicans — but its basic big guy vs. little guy story is very familiar. The end may already seem dated as it implies that an Obama administration might actually be able to greatly change our society and the way politics work, but even if it didn't seem dated at the time the film hit theaters it must have sounded naïve. For an otherwise fun trip through one man's view on capitalism, it is a finale which never quite worked.