Starring: Michael Moore
Directed by: Michael Moore
Ah Michael Moore, how he makes us annoyed with him even when we’re agreeing with him. Unless of course you just plain hate him, and then you don’t agree with him… and probably don’t watch his movies. Unless of course you’re a Michael Moore-hating sadomasochist, then I suppose you might watch his movies.
I am not a Michael Moore hater. In fact, I’ve reasonably enjoyed all his movies, as I felt the topics were important, the things he had to say were valid, and the way he said them was entertaining. Moreover, I can credit Bowling for Columbine for my recent interest in documentaries. That said, the farther I get from his movies and the emotions they rile up, the more I feel embarrassed by his tactics and driving need to be on camera.
In his newest film, Sicko, Moore fixes his bulldog-like attention on the American Health Care system, specifically how it affects those with health insurance but have found themselves caught in the margins. In doing so, he seems to have made a conscious decision to limit his on camera time, and engages in fewer obnoxious stunts such as ambushing Dick Clark.
The movie is the better for it, albeit not without other Moore tricks. It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating, Moore isn’t so much a documentarian as he is a professional provocateur. He wilfully overlooks opposing viewpoints and brushes over things that don’t support his arguments. He’s a propagandist first and foremost, but that doesn’t make him wrong.
The American Health Care system is broken. It’s inconceivable to the rest of the world how the richest country in the world can have a system where people have to decide which sawed-off fingers they get to keep for budgetary reasons, or how a hospital can turn away a sick infant because the hospital falls outside of the mother’s coverage zone. Seriously. I’m in the rest of the world, and I don’t get it.
A more complete documentary would mention that the American Health Care system is one of the most medically superior in the world for those who can afford it. It also would have done a better job pointing out the cons of some of the other countries’ systems profiled (including my own country of Canada) while celebrating their pros. Doing so wouldn’t invalidate the impact of the stories Moore does profile, nor would it make his criticism of the American system and private health care companies less true. It would just make his movie more balanced and less prone to attack by his detractors.
Instead, he leaves himself wide open by salivating over France and buying into the Cuban propaganda machine. Again, these bits don’t make him wrong, but do weaken the movie. It’s still powerful stuff, but it’s also very much Michael Moore.
Personally, while I agreed with his sentiment and was moved by a lot of the stories, I didn’t completely connect with Sicko, mostly because in the end, it has very little to do with me. Whereas Bowling for Columbine had important things to say about American media culture (which I absorb regularly) and Fahrenheit 9/11 was a treatise on the American president who has a significant impact on foreign affairs (and thus my life), Sicko is about a health care system that, God willing, I will never have to use. So my reaction was basically, “wow, that sucks for those poor bastards”. Sure, I’ve seen other documentaries about problems in other countries that have affected me, but those generally weren’t about a country far richer than my own.
Other than that, my reaction was to A) thank my lucky stars that I don’t live in America, and B) purchase travel insurance the next day for my then-upcoming trip to California. I’ve since cancelled that trip when my wife broke her ankle, giving me a first-hand view of our health care system, which admitted her immediately and got her into surgery the next day. All for free. So… the movie wasn’t that wrong about our wait times (although did exaggerate in that area). And I felt even luckier for not being American, or that something like my wife’s injury didn’t happen while we were visiting (even with the insurance).
But if you are American, I highly recommend you check this movie out. If you do, maybe you can explain to me why you’re one of the only countries in the developed world not to have some system of universal heath coverage. Cause the rest of us don’t get it.