Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)
Directed by: Michael Moore
Premise: A documentary about the economic system of the United States, focusing on the disparity between the wealthy and the poor.
What Works: Capitalism: A Love Story is another terrific piece of documentary filmmaking by Michael Moore. Like his other work, Capitalism is a subjective documentary, like an op-ed piece in a newspaper, but he is nevertheless convincing. Moore is a master at assembling his arguments and arranging footage for maximum rhetorical effect and this film features some of his most impressive work. Capitalism: A Love Story is Moore’s most ambitious film to date as he takes on the economic system of the United States. The film nicely links the public stories of political corruption and mismanagement on Wall Street to the very personal stories of working class people losing their homes and in Capitalism Moore is focused and disciplined, balancing his pathos appeals with facts and figures better than any of his other film, except perhaps Bowling for Columbine, and orchestrating a mounting argument against the systems and social structures that have dismantled the middle class. Although he has been criticized for his editing techniques in previous films, Capitalism is devoid of any cheap shots on Moore’s part. This makes his argument more credible and his rhetorical voice more believable. Moore is a terrific showman and he manages to elicit laughs, tears, and anger from his audience in equal measure. The emotional ups and downs of the film merge the appeals of a feature film with the expository nature of a documentary, resulting in a film that demands to be listened to with its emotional appeals but then proves itself worth taking seriously in its credible take on the subject matter.
What Doesn’t: Michael Moore’s biggest weakness is his tendency to overreach or oversimplify complex issues. Although Moore is much more focused throughout Capitalism, in the finale he attempts to set up capitalism, an economic system, as the opposite of democracy, a governmental system. The point Moore is trying to make, that the current economic situation is antidemocratic, is made but what exactly he wants to see reformed is unclear.
Bottom Line: Capitalism: A Love Story will likely prove to be the centerpiece of Michael Moore’s filmography. The film exposes how the economic engine of the United States works and who it works for and ultimately reveals who we are as a people.
Episode: #263 (November 1, 2009)