Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sicko & Me

I admit that I’m a huge Michael Moore fan. I discovered his debut film Roger & Me at an old mom and pop video store in the early 1990’s and fell madly in love with it. At the time, Moore was just a local cult hero. I obsessively watched Roger & Me over and over again. I showed it to everyone I knew. I still consider it one of the best films I’ve ever seen.

I got a chance to watch Moore’s new film Sicko yesterday. I am disappointed to report that Sicko is very flawed.

The first hour is filmmaking as good as you’ll see it in a full length documentary. Heartbreaking tales of the American health care system failing the people.

The problems start to show up in the second half of the film when Moore travels abroad. There are too many sequences detailing virtually the same thing… that France and Great Britain have free universal health care. This whole section of the film could have been reduced to maybe three minutes., instead it’s close to thirty minutes.

The most problematic thing in Sicko is the already infamous ending. Moore travels to Cuba with ailing 9/11 rescue workers to seek medical treatment. Ok, exaggerated satire… wonderful stuff. The point has been made right? Not exactly. What we get in the very tail end of the picture is a lot of shots of Moore in a hallucinatory bewilderment state as the 9/11 rescue workers receive… breathing tests from hunky Cuban doctors?

It’s of course absurd to believe that a bunch of Yankees could travel down to Cuba and receive medical attention, no questions asked. What’s more believable is that Fidel Castro is a public relations whore who knows when to wine and dine. Plus, cameras slung by an Academy Award winning American filmmaker helps too.

The exclamation point is an embarrassingly staged ceremony by Cuban firefighters in honor of the 9/11 rescue workers. Lots of tears are shed, lots of hugs given… more shots of Michael Moore in a hallucinatory bewilderment state. The whole ceremony is inter-cut with Che Guevara’s daughter mumbling something about caring for the people. Yes, Che Guevara, the Stalinist guerilla warrior who never passed up an opportunity to execute someone. The man who imprisoned hundreds of artists, political opponents, and homosexuals.

I do not object to the film’s politics. I agree with them. What I object to is the silliness of the last half of the film. Moore hammers the point to the logical conclusion and then hammers it to the center of the Earth. There is also no excuse for the complete sloppiness of film craftsmanship. Moore is better than that.

The ending of Sicko is something Michael Moore would have goofed on in a previous motion picture.