Just left the first screening of Michael Moore’s latest doc, Sicko. It seemed to play rather well to the capacity-crowd of journalists and industry. Moore’s new project, a skewering of the American healthcare system, is a bit of a departure for the filmmaker. For one, Moore is hardly in the film’s first half, he serves as the omniscient narrator until he emerges half-way through, to offer his trademark, man-on-the-street exploration of how America’s got it wrong again.
I felt the film works completely as entertainiment, and as usual, Moore makes a hard-hitting and topical argument by using comedic elements. Primarily, his argument stems from disillusion about why America can’t seem to figure out what the rest of the world has: universal healthcare for citizens isn’t such a bad idea. When he travels to Canada, England, and France, he documents citizens living comfortable and carefree lives. And, like many of Moore’s films, the argument gets a bit repetitive and the characters a bit glossed. Still, I was entertained despite what the film may lack in its documentary responsibilities. And, yes, it’s important stuff that America needs to think about. Some quick stand-out moments from today’s screening and highlights from the film:
– Eventhough the film opens with an old clip of George W. Bush giving a speech, the U.S. prez is relatively off the hook this time. Instead, some elder statesmen are given more blame. Nixon, for example, is represented thanks to White House tape recordings, as he approves the very concept for HMOs in 1971 after learning they can be profitable without being compassionate.
– Hilary Clinton is actually called out, for unsuccessfully fighting the healthcare biz while her husband was president, and then later taking major contributions from them once she was a New York Senator.
– Perhaps most shocking is the revelation that many hospitals in the U.S. have taken to “dumping” poor patients who cannot pay their bills, onto the curbs of homeless shelters. There is a CCTV shot that is really rather haunting, of a woman getting such treatment in a hosptial gown.
– Yes, as has been reported, Moore takes a bunch of 9/11 rescue workers suffering from ailments, to Cuba for treatment. During this sequence, there were a bunch of walk-outs in the crowd. This sequence was the big “payoff” played for laughs and clearly very staged. But overall, it was amazing to see just how these U.S. citizens were able to get the treatment they cannot get in America.
More thoughts later. Gotta go to a screening.
UPDATE: Okay, back, with Moore thoughts. I think Sicko, for me, falls somewhere between Roger & Me and Bowling for Columbine in Moore’s canon. It’s substantially better than the tedious and sloppy Fahrenheit 9/11, and thankfully tries to be more of a real documentary than Moore’s made in a while. In fact, I was much more interested in the film’s first half, where Moore is nowhere to be seen and lets people do all the talking on-camera. Once he starts his hosting duties in the second half, the film devolves into another uproarious, contrived, and hugely funny experience. But less of a documentary (as moving as it is, the Cuba sequence is one big production). Regardless, it’s a film everyone in America should see, even if it’s not gonna change a damn thing.