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Movie Review: Sicko

Written and directed by Michael Moore
Weinstein Company/Lionsgate

I’m not sure of the overall opinion of Michael Moore but I’m almost certain that there’s enough negativity to cause a stalemate in any kind of progress he hopes to achieve. A lot of this is his own fault, since he became an on-camera personality in his own films, most of them bent on walking into corporations to rattle wealthy CEOs. And for that, he seems to be an attention-monger, regardless of how well he proves a point.

But I’ve watched most of Moore’s documentaries and have been left stunned every time. Even though, almost assuredly, his documentaries are carefully tailored to leave no doubt in the mind of the viewer, you can’t deny what you see means something devastating regardless of what the other side of the argument may be. Recently, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Moore got into a spirited debate where some of Moore’s facts were questioned, specifically having to do with his sources of information, and how sometimes they seem to be selective according to what point Moore wants to prove. In the end, though, it seemed like splitting hairs anyway. CNN’s questions of the facts didn’t really contradict what Moore was trying to prove: health care sucks in the U.S.

What Moore does here is show that even if you have insurance, the insurance companies have a lot of gatekeepers whose salary hikes up every time they deny a claim or find some way not to pay up. Either the application is denied, or the care is denied based on pre-existing conditions (or the treatments considered “experimental”), or loopholes are found to deny coverage. Moore then goes to other countries, like Canada, Great Britain, and France and shows that people can get fixed for free and needed drugs or cheap. In fact, people laugh when Moore asks individuals what they have to pay to get out of the hospital.

Moore also keeps that “fear factor” theme going, the one that was introduced in Bowling for Columbine and continued in Fahrenheit 9/11, that we Americans are scared to buck the system because of what would happen to us if we were to revolt or try to change anything.

Sure, there are a couple of “buts” in all this, but nothing too antagonistic. One is that while Canada, Great Britain, and France give their citizens free health coverage, it isn’t all free. Taxes play a part, but hey, at least you aren’t denied because of pre-existing conditions. The other is how early in the film Moore shows a study that finds the U.S. to be 37th in the world in health care, and if you look you’ll find Cuba at 39th. Yet later, Moore (famously) boats over to Cuba to get 9/11 responders, among others, some help the U.S. won’t provide. These kinds of mistakes unfortunately open Moore up to all sorts of attacks.

To me, I think nearly everything he shows here is brutal, and it’s especially relatable. It should make anyone angry to watch the decisions made in order to whore more money from you, or listen to the bullshit politicians spew out concerning the issues of our day.

Which brings me to this final criticism of a documentary I found particularly damning and well thought out. A lot of today’s criticism comes without any teeth. No one suggests what should be done to buck the system, to change it back to our favor. There’s a moment when Moore asks someone, “What would happen if the Prime Minister were to take away universal health care?” and the answer is, “There would be a revolt.” Something tells me this is a slick way of suggesting this kind of thing without actually saying it. Because if Michael Moore can’t bring about change with his documentaries, which persuade as well as any one human being or group of human beings can, what other step is there? It’s dangerous territory Moore wanders into and comes out of without a scratch. I’d like to know what the options are, and it sounds like Moore is saying, “Well, looks like you’re just going to have to take it up the tailpipe…unless…” and leaves us hanging.

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