Naturally, in the middle of this comes Michael Moore, a guy who’s all heart and no head, more or less, with a really big ass besides. I thought it might be fun to peruse some recent reviews of his Capitalism: a Love Story.
…The problem with Capitalism is that its weakest moments are in its dénouement. It's still a great film, don't get me wrong. But I felt really ambivalent at the end, even Moore himself sounds tired, a little withdrawn. The film very effectively communicates that blood is on both Republican and Democratic hands when it comes to our nation's economic collapse.…
Moore seems to want to convince that there's a light at the end of the tunnel but this time I just don't believe him—even though I want to. His argument that the victory of the Republic Windows and Doors workers coupled with Obama's election represent a rebellion against capitalism just don't hold up. And let's face it, his other films' warnings were not heeded….
…Forget greedy borrowers, napping regulators or global economic imbalances. The recession is entirely the fault of Wall Street’s robber-barons ….
As in “Fahrenheit 9/11”, … Mr Moore sees conspiracies everywhere. The $700 billion bail-out after Lehman’s collapse was no genuine attempt to stave off depression, but a financial coup d’état, staged by big banks. Like nefarious screen villains, the bankers “had a simple plan: to remake America to serve them”….
The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday:
… Moore hasn't become this country's most successful documentary filmmaker because of his formal elegance or philosophical density. Instead, he's perfected technique that puts heart before head every time, combining a scattershot, even sloppy narrative structure with riveting human stories and wry sarcasm….
The NYT’s Manohla Dargis:
…As it happens, the most galvanizing words in the movie come not from the current president but from Roosevelt, who in 1944 called for a “second bill of rights,” asserting that “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” The image of this visibly frail president, who died the next year, appealing to our collective conscience — and mapping out an American future that remains elusive — is moving beyond words. And chilling: “People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.” It’s a brilliant moment of cinema both for the man delivering the speech and for Mr. Moore, who smartly realized that he’d found one other voice that needed to be as loud as his own.
The UK Guardian’s Xan Brooks:
Capitalism: A Love Story is by turns crude and sentimental, impassioned and invigorating. It posits a simple moral universe inhabited by good little guys and evil big ones, yet the basic thrust of its argument proves hard to resist.
Crucially, Moore (or at least his researchers) has done a fine job in ferreting out the human stories behind the headlines….
Moore's conclusion? That capitalism is both un-Christian and un-American, an evil that deserves not regulation but elimination. No doubt he had concluded all this anyway, well in advance of making the film, but no matter. There is something energising – even moving – about the sight of him setting out to prove it all over again. Like some shambling Columbo, he amasses the evidence, takes witness statements from the victims and then starts doorstepping the guilty parties.
The LA Times’ Kenneth Turan:
In a sense, "Capitalism" comes by its wide-ranging, scattershot approach naturally. After all, this is a heck of a big subject….
That said, Moore's scattershot is a lot more interesting than some filmmakers' focus, and many of those individual parts are classic. For one thing, Moore retains the instincts of a shrewd stand-up comedian – the astonished, baffled looks he often wears are a case in point, as is his decision to include under the rubric of "When did Jesus become a capitalist?" the dubbing of a section of a biblical epic with free-market platitudes.
The main point Moore wants to make, the thing that drives him craziest, is his notion that capitalism, far from being a system that rewards excellence, is a scheme set up to make a profit on absolutely anything. He fears it has in recent decades turned American society into a culture that says money is the only value, and he has a number of cases he wants to use to make his point….
…While another documentary, Leslie Cockburn's "American Casino," does a better job with the questions surrounding massive housing foreclosures, Moore's film, aided by strong statements from Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), raises questions about the nature of the multibillion-dollar government bailout.
At the end of the day, perhaps the most startling thing about "Capitalism" is that Moore stands revealed not as some pointy-headed socialist but as an unreconstructed New Deal Democrat who admires Franklin D. Roosevelt, believes in increased democracy and opportunity, and feels that the decades-long weakening of unions has fatally weakened America. The fact that this will be a controversial stance says as much about today's political culture as it does about Moore's place in it.