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“Sicko:” a must-see film if you care about your health

Michael Moore’s latest foray into muckraking concerns the plight of America’s healthcare system, which the film tells us is ranked 37th (a dismal 37th!!!!!) in the world, just slightly ahead of Slovenia. There’s no mistaking the film’s Michael Moore-ness, with the now infamous documentary filmmaker’s usual wit and exuberance, as well as his crass self-promoting (nobody loves Michael Moore more than himself) and manipulation (though I would argue that all good filmmakers are exceptional manipulators).

Yeah, he’s still obsessed with Bush (my vote for worst president of all time), beginning the film with a hilarious clip of one of the President’s speeches on healthcare, another of his oft-cited, poorly selected word usage moments (“Too many good ‘docs’ are getting out of business. Too many OBGYNs are unable to practice their ... their love with women all across this country”). Honestly, I can’t believe Bush has been our president for nearly eight years; it’s embarrassing, really, when you think about it. This opening had the audience in stitches right from the get-go, and I realized something: Moore is a pretty damn good filmmaker. Forget about all the political baggage we all carry into a film of his (and we all do)—when you get right to it, the guy can make a movie audience laugh, cry, become enraged and feel sympathetic, sometimes all in one scene. If that’s not the mark of a good filmmaker, I don’t know what is.

He’s also still obsessed with Canada and his hometown of Flint, Mich., two places that are now Moore film staples, like feet in Tarantino’s films or classical music in Kubrick’s. Here, Canada is shown again as a country that seems to be doing things right: universal health care. But it’s not just Canada that Moore probes, he also goes to France, Great Britain and Cuba in the touching climactic sequence that has put Moore on the media hot seat again, where he brings a boatload of 9/11 rescue workers to Guantanamo Bay seeking affordable medication and doctor assistance.

We are told all sorts of terrible things about our sorry, bottom-line driven, corporate healthcare system (like how doctors are paid more by turning away patients, which of course saves the insurance companies shitloads of money that they’d rather spend on themselves), and as enjoyable as the film is to watch, it also gave me a sick feeling in my stomach, like after a bout of food poisoning. The further along Moore got into his diatribe on the system, the more I just wanted to pick up and leave the whole damn country. But I believe in my country, and ultimately so does Moore. Throughout “Sicko” he—and his interview subjects—make many none-too-subtle comments on how they loves this country, and just want to tell us the facts (can’t really blame the guy for defending himself after the onslaughts of hatred from ever-faithful Bush-supporting, hardcore right-wingers post “Fahrenheit 9/11”).

Moore fans will find everything they like about the director’s previous films in “Sicko,” as well as some new things. For once, he actually attempts some journalistic balance, though I would use that word loosely with most of his efforts, but that’s what Moore does, and he doesn’t apologize for it. In fact, he’s created an entirely new form of documentary, something that has already been copied, and will be for years, especially after the box office success of “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
On the other side of the coin, Moore haters will find everything they despise about him in “Sicko.” I don’t particularly like his narration in his films, though it is fairly well written. He also, of course, doesn’t forget to put himself in front of the camera often, lending “Sicko” a feeling of self-serving narcissism that is always prevalent in Moore’s films (He even goes so far as to tell the audience near the climax that he gave an anonymous—not so much anymore—check to the creator of one of the biggest anti-Moore websites for an emergency operation for his wife).

The film opened Friday, June 29, in many theaters around the Twin Cities. Not Moore’s best effort, but an entertaining, mostly sophisticated piece of rabble-rousing that will give you nightmares prior to your next hospital visit.




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