Toronto International Film Festival: Capitalism: A Love Story
After the relatively straightforward arguments of Sicko, Michael Moore returns to the more sprawling approach of Fahrenheit 9/11 in Capitalism: A Love Story, which turns out to be less an examination of the current financial crisis than a critique of all the flaws of capitalism in general. Yes, in two hours. The level of detail is extraordinarily varied, and the interviewees (e.g., Moore's father, Moore's good friend Wallace Shawn) are not always what you would call well-chosen. Using anecdotes to prove his points, Moore throws a lot at the screen and sees what sticks. In one provocative detour, for instance, we learn that some companies take out special life-insurance policies that amount to bets against their employees' lives. It's a horrifying prospect, previously unknown to me—but it's also only a small part of the problems Moore is trying to address, at least relative to the screen time it receives.
Some of Moore's chosen topics really hit home. He makes an impassioned plea for better treatment of pilots, and he portrays Chicago's Republic Windows and Doors sit-in as an example of productive protest. There are also a lot of great clips, including a hilarious parody of a Cleveland tourism video. And yes, Moore eventually goes to town on Hank Paulson and TARP, albeit in a way that seems oddly like kid gloves. More than most of Moore's films, this one fails to connect some obviously connectable dots—perhaps because he presumes the link between credit-default swaps and the housing bubble is already well-known to viewers (although given the way he panders in other sections of the film, that isn't likely), or maybe because he's just not big on details. He also still has a thing for fuzzy chronology. Moore scores major points casting doubt on Timothy Geithner's judgment, then a few minutes later portrays Obama's election as hope for a new era in finance—as if Obama hadn't appointed Geithner as treasury secretary.
I'm being harsh, because there's a lot of good material here, and Moore's irksome stunts are relatively low-key this time around. (It is funny to see him putting up crime-scene tape in front of major financial players' office buildings.) What the movie lacks are clarity and focus, which are, alas, probably the qualities it most needed.