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Review: Capitalism: A Love Story

Moore of the same: Capitalism fails to make a prophet
By PETER KEOUGH  |  September 29, 2009
2.5 2.5 Stars


Capitalism: A Love Story | Written and Directed by Michael Moore | with Michael Moore | Overture | 127 minutes
In his new film about the Wall Street meltdown, Michael Moore — surprise! — denounces capitalism and its exploitation of the working class. Not that he's above doing a little exploiting himself. I dare you not to dab an eye as the young son of a cancer victim loses his composure when his mother relates how her husband's employer, Wal-Mart, collected $1.5 million in insurance from a "dead peasant" policy they took out on him without his knowledge.

How dare they! It gets you worked up! But exactly what point is Moore making? What should we be angry about? Are we supposed to see that poor cancer victim as the logical outcome of a capitalist system that turns labor into commodities? What does that have to do with home foreclosures, unemployment, big executive salaries, and the bailout? And what the hell are derivatives?

Moore admits that that last item has him stymied too. But he argues that the concept has been made incomprehensible so that "they" can do what they want — like throwing people out of their jobs and their homes while sucking in billions. And who are "they?" Bernie Madoff, certainly, but Barney Frank? Moore joins Lou Dobbs and every other right-wing talking pinhead in denouncing the $700 billion bailout, and though I'm no expert in the matter, I think had not something like that been done, most of us would now be picking fruit for a living.

But then, if Moore did take pains to explain everything and construct a coherent argument, who'd bother to pay 10 bucks to see it? It would be a mini-series. So he applies the tried and true methods he used when he started in this business 20 years ago with Roger and Me: funny archival footage; faux confrontations between Moore and the hapless security guards barring his entrance to various corporate headquarters; wacky stunts like encircling AIG, Lehman Brothers, and the rest with yellow crime-scene tape; touching scenes with corporate victims; experts providing rueful background (Wally Shawn?).

Some bits (the song about Cleveland that ends "At least we're not Detroit") are funnier than others (the CGI doomsday effects as Bush announces the financial crisis). But, overall, this Moore effort is even more inconsistent than usual. For example, is Obama on the take or not? Moore notes that the president's campaign accepted a $2 million donation from the bad guys, but in the next scene he's applauding the man's election as if it were the second coming. He's echoing the Teabaggers here, a movement he otherwise ignores. Shouldn't he instead be showing how genuine grassroots rage has been hijacked and redirected from the real culprits to "socialist" scapegoats like Obama himself?

And so, finally, the "S" word. Moore makes no bones about it — he is one. At the end, he baldly states, "Capitalism is an evil, and you can't regulate evil. You have to replace it with something that is good for everyone. It should be eliminated." Eliminated and replaced by a socialist system that, generations of propaganda be damned, is as American as the Constitution. In that document, Moore can find no mention of capitalism, only suspicious, pinko-sounding words and phrases like "We the people" and "union."

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Related: W. gets a B, The nanny state, Hoover? Damn!, More more >
  Topics: Reviews , Barack Obama, Barack Obama, recession,  More more >
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