Capitalism: A Love Story (USA, 2009)

capitalism_a_love_storyDirected by: Michael Moore. I almost skipped reviewing this one, partly because it just wasn’t that good, and partly because I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I watched a Michael Moore movie. This isn’t the place for me to hash through the old question of whether Moore is helpful, harmful, or just hopelessly inadequate. I generally lean towards the idea that, although hopelessly inadequate, he’s generally helpful. To people who say that his generalized, un-subtle, jokey, and sensationalistic take on social/political issues can’t possibly be educational or make a difference, all I can do is assert that, for many households, his jokey, generalized, unsophisticated leftism is the first or only leftism that permeates through the mass culture. The fact that he has to participate in and be composed of that mass culture is, I’m inclined to say, down to hard pragmatism more than a compromised weakness of convictions. This film, as always, has plenty of cringe-worthy moments where Moore places himself at the centre of the argument—going up with a bullhorn to make a citizen’s arrest on a bank, like some hopeless child, to me says more about Moore’s lack of imagination and personal arrogance than anything about the debate of capitalism and socialism, and economic reform. Moore’s film definitely bashes capitalism, but it fails to come forward with a coherent and explicit concept of what the alternative needs to be. He argues for socialism and anarcho-syndicalism, without naming either (maybe he mentions socialism a bit, but he backs off). So, although I found the film cheesy and exaggerated and emotional and sentimental, rather than cutting, uncompromising, and ruthless, it’s pretty silly of me to expect anything different from a Michael Moore movie than that it should be a Michael Moore movie. As far as these go, this one is pretty okay. And although to me, it’s not nearly as exciting as, say, these conversation pieces between Bernie Sanders and Killer Mike, this movie just might be the gateway drug to a few hundred or thousand Americans who never thought of things in quite this way before. And really, what’s wrong with that?

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