Michael Moore sucks. And “Sicko”, his latest liberal attack on the government is more of the same. Don’t waste your money.
Hmmm. Hum. Hmmm. Hmmmm
Okay, are all of the Michael Moore bashers out of the room? Good. Now we can actually discuss the film “Sicko”.
If you have seen any of Moore’s previous films, “Sicko” will look familiar. Moore combines a number of moving stories of real people with a number of segments where he serves as a ‘roving reporter’ and tries to get to the bottom of certain issues. Expectations for this new film are high, based on the enormous success of his last film “Fahrenheit 9/11”. Because of the subject matter, and the enormous amount of press, both good and bad, “9/11” became the most successful documentary ever. When I went to see the film, I bought my tickets in advance and still had to wait in line due to the sheer volume of people trying to get in to see the film. “Sicko” is similar in tone and feel to his previous film, but it isn’t quite the same hot button issue and will not receive the same amount of press, publicity, or dollars.
Many people attack Michael Moore’s films because they are “documentaries”. “Well, they don’t tell the truth”. “He’s a liar”. A documentary, any documentary, has to have a point of view. We have to know why the filmmaker is telling their story. Why is this idea important to them? If they don’t have or exhibit a point of view, the film would be a pointless waste of your time and money. It wouldn’t be compelling. You may disagree with some or all of the filmmaker’s point of view, but at least they have one.
Moore has taken on some hot-button topics in his films. I think he does this for two reasons; because he wants to help make people aware of these problems and encourage them to act and also because he knows he will create more publicity by attacking them. As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity. So, Moore has taken on gun control, big corporations and the George W. Bush presidency, all in an attempt to give us more information and to try to prompt us to take action. Because of his previous films, Moore is not exactly a sight any one running a company wants to see coming at them. In fact, I think I might have an accident if I saw Moore headed towards me holding a microphone. What did I do wrong?
In “Sicko”, Moore turns his camera on the health care industry. Or, as he has said in a number of interviews, the lack of such. He talks to a number of people about their problems. One woman shows pictures of her car after an accident. Then, we see the bill and learn the insurance company denied her claim for an ambulance because it wasn’t pre-approved. As she comments “When was I supposed to have it pre-approved? After I regained consciousness but before they put me on the ambulance.” There are a number of stories like this and they are heartbreaking.
Why are these stories so heartbreaking? Because each of these people did what they were supposed to do. They did what we have done. They got insurance. And we could just as easily be in their shoes.
As Moore delves deeper into the problem, he notes that insurance companies don’t make money if they pay claims, so they hire people, doctors, and medical professionals, to deny whatever claims they can and to figure out new ways to deny other claims.
Moore spends some time discussing what a ‘pre-existing health condition’ means to these companies. After he sets this up, he shows a list of all of the pre-existing conditions, which could get your coverage denied. Worse, because some of these conditions are relatively banal, if they find out later that you have one of them, after paying out a claim, they may deny the claim and sue you to get the money back. The list of ‘pre-existing’ conditions is extensive and runs a long time, even at the accelerated speed we see in the film.
There is also a segment dealing with Hilary Clinton’s stewardship of the Universal Health Care initiative she tried to get off the ground when her husband was President. Not surprisingly, the plan never materialized. Now, with Hilary the Democratic front-runner, and using this as a campaign talking point again, it might come as a surprise what Moore reveals in “Sicko”. But then again, it probably shouldn’t surprise you that much.
And Moore visits other Western countries already employing the concept of Universal Healthcare. In visits to Great Britain and France, he finds that people receive the health care they need but more importantly, they receive the preventative care they need. As he talks to people in these countries and they reveal the extent of this coverage and what it means to them, I defy you to not allow your mouth to drop open. As he talked to more and more people in Paris, both French citizens and American ex-patriots living there, and they revealed more and more of the benefits they currently receive, I was ready to pack my bags.
As Moore tells us one story after another of normal, ordinary, everyday people and their problems with the healthcare industry, he really tugs at the heartstrings. These are people just like you and me. Their problems could happen to any one of us as well.
Then, Moore turns his attention to a sampling of 9/11 Rescue Workers. The NYC Firemen and Policemen who rushed to the scene are presumably covered by their respective health care plans. But what about all of the other people who rushed down there to lend a hand? All of the people in the Armed Forces? The good Samaritans? All of the people who volunteered their efforts to help save people? These people didn’t hesitate to help out. In the process, they also breathed the toxic fumes and are now experiencing many of the same ailments many of New York’s finest are living with. But are they getting any medical help? As Moore illustrates with a sound bite from Governor Pataki, they will be covered provided they can prove they were there, they spent a certain amount of time there, they helped out with the rescue effort, they sign an affidavit, etc. How many volunteers who were involved with such a chaotic event can provide proof of their participation?
Moore also learns the detainees at Guantanamo Bay receive full health care, including preventative medicine and this doesn’t add up for the filmmaker. The people who helped out during the rescue effort can’t get the medical care they need but the people suspected of causing the harm can? Moore grabs his subjects and they travel to Miami. He rents a boat and they make their way to Guantanamo Bay. It is an amusing piece and the story continues from there to show how these same people are treated when they actually arrive in Cuba.
This last bit is also pretty typical Moore, and, I suspect, a point that drives many of his critics crazy. It is a staged bit, much like when he ambushed Charlton Heston for a scene in “Bowling for Columbine”, and it is debatable whether it has a place in a documentary. But Moore is trying to make a point and while the set-up may be artificial, the outcome is what he wants to show. And it is an effective argument.
“Sicko” is a very good, funny, emotional look at a corrupt part of our community. It doesn’t pack the emotional wallop of “Fahrenheit 9/11” or address as incendiary a hot-button topic, but it is a very good conversation starter nonetheless.
Now, hopefully people will go out and talk and come up with a solution to the problem.