Michael Moore’s latest film spends more than two hours decrying the institution of capitalism in the United States, but a ticket to see it will still cost you American dollars. “Capitalism: A Love Story” delivers an appropriately bleak account of the American economic landscape and successfully appeals to audiences’ emotions, but it remains too vague in its declarations to promote a genuine cultural change.
‘Capitalism: A Love Story
At Showcase, Quality 16 and the Michigan
A recommendation for “Capitalism” relies largely upon the emotion the viewers want to feel when they watch a film. It’s not a funny film, it’s not an exciting film and it’s not entertaining in the conventional sense of the word. Even someone who loves “Capitalism” will be hard-pressed to leave the theater feeling anything but a sense of hopelessness.
“Capitalism,” more loose in structure than Moore’s previous films, jumps from story to story after it makes its premise clear. Moore delivers his hypothesis — that the abusive economic system of free trade is destroying the judicial system of American democracy — and then presents examples of this destruction across the country. Moore is acutely aware that a two-hour PowerPoint presentation on the subject would be boring, so he intercuts interviews and pie charts with gaudy public spectacles like cordoning off the New York Stock Exchange with police tape and driving an armored car to the headquarters of various banks, attempting to recoup the losses of the American people in person with a burlap sack.
No one can claim that Michael Moore is an objective filmmaker. He has never pretended to give equal billing to two sides of an issue. He is a man on a mission, armed with his camera and considerable wit, to deliver his opinion and his alone. Moore is a subjective filmmaker, and an exceptionally talented one at that. Not even his fiercest critics could argue that Moore lacks the ability to engagingly deliver his message through film.
It is with this talent that Moore regales us with the story of the American economy’s demise. He is somehow able to employ insurance policies and Citibank quarterly reports as gripping narrative tools and yet maintains the film’s sequence of events at a brisk and involving pace. Moore’s use of archive footage, still images, voiceover and an active camera showcases his expertise in the medium.
Traditionally, Moore’s films have been sharp in their focus, especially upon the object of his criticism. While “Fahrenheit 9/11” leveled specific accusations of wrongdoing against clearly identified individuals, “Capitalism” paints in broader strokes, naming the abstract concept of capitalism, at least in its twisted and malfunctioning application in the United States, as the chief villain of the film. The problem, though, is that there is no hero.
Moore’s stated desire is noble. He wants to correct the American economic system so that hard-working Americans can reclaim their lost jobs and rediscover financial stability. However, he refuses to name a potential political alternative to big, bad capitalism. He expertly reveals the sins and pitfalls of the system and why the country must scrap it but stops short of naming its successor.
By avoiding an endorsement of another concrete economic system, Moore plays it far too safe. He has never cared about political backlash in the past, so it is disappointing, even for staunch supporters of the current American economic structure, that Moore is not bold enough to identify what he thinks is a better plan for America.
“Capitalism: A Love Story” tells a vivid yet horrifying tale of economic stagnation and decline. Michael Moore has once again proven himself to be a masterful storyteller whose skills at eliciting an emotional response from his audience are unmatched. Unfortunately, after presenting the problem and establishing it as a threat to the future of the nation, he fails to identify a viable solution to the disaster in which he insists we find ourselves.