Sicko (2007)

(In theaters, June 2007) Progressive rabble-rouser Michael Moore is back with a film that delivers exactly what fans and foes are expecting from him. This time, he takes on the shameful American health care problem, which doesn’t make for much of a challenge: the system is so broken that it hardly seems sporting to criticize it. The film is a series of heart-breaking anecdotes showing by example the plight of ordinary citizens in a country where everyone has convinced themselves that universal health care is a luxury that no one can afford. Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Cuba are trotted as counter-examples –even with the understanding that Moore cherry-picks his examples. But subtlety isn’t the name of the game here, and even the most jaded cynics will find it hard not to emphasize with the victims. Ironically, this is perhaps the film where Moore does the least grandstanding: save for an obviously dumb stunt near the end of the film, Sicko is the most emotional, least annoying Moore documentary yet. It does lack the panache that made Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 such memorable pieces, but it’s just as effective in raising everyone’s hackles. This time around, the lines aren’t as partisan as in previous films: While recent Republicans come under fire by sheer dint of incumbency, both Nixon and Hillary Clinton get their share of harsh words… and down in the street, people bankrupted by health insurance don’t exactly wear their partisanship on their forehead. Fans of Moore’s work will recognize the threads of Moore’s meta-narrative being pieced together: Moore’s over-arching thesis is that manufactured fear, poverty and desperation are the things keeping Americans from achieving their true potential, and that explicitly gets stated in the film. As usual, I find myself hoping that one day, Moore will piece it together and deliver the film that will blow open everyone’s minds. In the meantime, Sicko is a step in the right direction: hopefully, it will find some political traction and play in the 2008 election. Seeing the history of American activism, though, I’m not particularly optimistic. Let me hug my Canadian Passport once more.

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