Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Capitalism: A Love Story</strong> (2009)

(In theatres, October 2009) I don’t need to be convinced by Michael Moore’s message: I see his movies as political entertainment, not doctoral thesis. While his grandstanding and simplifications are often grating, he is bringing a much-needed perspective to an American political discourse seemingly incapable of questioning its own axioms. Capitalism: A Love Story stakes out a rather daring position in questioning the accepted “free market” mantra that seems to run unchallenged throughout much of the US media. Moore’s film brings together a lot of known material, but there are occasionally a few good stories in the mix, and a few reminders of things that should outrage us still (such as “dead peasant insurance”). Much of the archival footage is interesting, and it’s to Moore’s credit that he’s able to mix diverse material (from personal sob stories to cool analysis to overarching theories) in such an entertaining fashion. Still, Capitalism may be tackling too broad a subject: the picture runs from one thing to another, outrageously simplifies complex issues (letting slide the false opposition of capitalism and democracy, it’s useful to remember that capitalism is always regulated in some fashion; the only question is where the draw the line) and doesn’t quite seem to deal with recent history fairly. The election of Barack Obama may have been felt as change, but as far as his financial policies go, it features a lot of the same players Moore sombrely denounces. (Kleptocracy, or plutocracy, would have been a better subject for the film.) The appeal to bailout conspiracy theories late in the movie is also a bit too cheap and easy considering the systemic complicity of everyone (including, especially, the viewers) in sustaining all kinds of get-rich-quick schemes. Ultimately, it also feels as if Moore fails to connect the pieces of his argument as efficiently as he did elsewhere: at times, viewers may feel as if they’re seeing bits and pieces of a much grander theory sketched in Moore’s previous films. It’s a bit ironic that when it comes to the dangers of amoral capitalism and industry captures of regulatory instruments, Moore has best able to express himself in the now-classic documentary The Corporation. Sure, Moore fans and viewers of a left-leaning persuasion will get their red meat’s worth of rhetoric. But there isn’t much here to persuade reluctant viewers to take another look at the unquestionable goodness of the free market.

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