Film review by: Witney Seibold
“Sicko,” the latest incendiary documentary from Michael Moore, is probably his best.
In “Roger & Me,” he was finding his feet as a filmmaker. In “The Big One,” he tackled too diverse subjects. In “Bowling for Columbine,” he started thinking he would end up in the “guns kill people” argument, but ended up on anther track, discussing America’s culture of fear. “Fahrenheit 9/11” was incendiary and hurtful, but pushed too many people’s political buttons. “Sicko” starts out on one track, and makes a strong and compelling case from start to finish. The case is this: there’s something dreadfully wrong with the way America takes care of its sick.
America is the only first-world country without a nationalized healthcare system. People who are uninsured are abound, but “Sicko” focuses on the people who are insured, and how they are constantly screwed over in various ways by the for-profit privately owned Health Maintenance Organizations. It tells the tales of people who are repeatedly denied care by their HMOs for not fitting just the right persnickety criteria. It show some ex-HMO workers who are rewarded for turning people down for care. It even shows some of the more horrific offenses, like poor hospital patients taken, gown and all, out of their hospital rooms, and dumped on the streets of skid row.
“Sicko” alos shows the origins of privatized healthcare in the U.S. as resting with the Nixon administration, and continuing to be largely run by HMO payments to influential politicians. Even once gung-ho supporter of universal healthcare, Hillary Clinton (on whom Moore has had a burning crush), is revealed to have taken payments.
To show a healthy alternative, Moore travels to France, England, and Canada and takes a look at their notoriously superior socialized healthcare systems. The doctors are paid well by the government, people are often treated for free, and the people live longer. Much of this portion is mostly Moore asking how much things cost, only to get the same non-surprising answer each time: it’s free.
Are there good things about America’s health system? Yes. I have heard stories of insurance companies actually taking care of everything, no questions asked. But then, when my mom was treated for her cancer, the billing department of her hospital kept sending bills even after she had paid them, and kept coming up with new bills for treatments she had turned down.
Are there bad things about England’s, France’s and Canada’s healthcare systems? I hear that long waits and a shortage of vital specialists are the worst things. But, from what I hear, from “Sicko” and elsewhere, they seem a lot better than the American system.
Moore also takes a group of volunteer workers, who were injured or harmed while cleaning up the rubble of the collapsed World Trade Center in 2001, to Cuba to show that the country that was once described at a Great Satan, can be more humane to their patients.
Are the Cubans acting better than usual because MICHAEL MOORE and his camera crew are there? Doubtlessly. But the Cuban medication is still cheap enough, and the hospitals plenty enough, that one does indeed question American even more.
Let me state that I am a Michael Moore fan. I’ve always admired people who get their point across through jokes, satire, and pranks, and what filmmaker these days makes bigger points using the best pranks?
Moore is often accused of having a big ego, as he often puts himself on camera a lot, and is always the one to make the points in voiceover. This tactic is no different than most documentary filmmakers, though, including greats like Werner Herzog and Ross McElwee.
Moore is often called the bane of the right (for his leftist views) and the bane of the let (for being a noisy, obnoxious, ill-prepared posterchild of the side).
Moore is often accused of not presenting a balanced argument, often coming down really hard on one thing (the gun industry, the president, and now the health industry) without allowing the other side to defend itself. Of course he doesn’t present a “balanced” argument. He’s only interested in indicating what is wrong, and only argues that perhaps the higher ups in any company, from Ford or Aetna, should know what’s going on downstairs. And perhaps even should be held accountable for it.
Moore is often accused of hypocrisy, in that he stands up for working class stiff who are being screwed by the ultra-rich, while he himself, by making some of the most popular and profitable documentary films of all time, is now very rich himself. Moore may be rich now, and his kids may indeed be in private schools, and in “Sicko,” he may be wearing a nicer brand of sport jacket than usual, but he still comes across as a middle class working stiff from a Motown in Michigan. He’s still kind of a schlub, and it works in his favor. He’s not an investigative reporter who is digging through the dirty laundry of every HMO worker. He’s just a pushy guy with a mike and a camera, who presents the stories and evidence that he has found in favor of his argument.
Ultimately, Moor’s message is one of getting involved. This evil/fear/bad leadership will not cease until you, the viewer, do something about it.
So go do something about the nasty healthcare. Vote for a pro-healthcare politician. Know what your insurance is, and what the stipulations are. And perhaps you should marry a doctor.