With Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore brings it all back to Roger & Me, his 1989 essay/documentary that started it all. That cautionary jeremiad about the export of American jobs overseas, and power and money from "We the People" to Wall Street, is the warning at the start and the exclamation point at the end of Capitalism. And Moore being Moore, he can't resist a bit of "I told you so."
"I tried to warn GM that this day was coming," he says.
It's too much for one movie. The unholy alliance between Big Bankers and the Treasury Department, the politics of shifting the tax burden away from the rich and screaming "socialism" at those who challenge it, the loss of jobs and rights from individuals to corporations — Moore tries to get at all these currents in American unease in Capitalism.
Moore's camera watches evictions in North Carolina, Illinois and Michigan, and follows a "condo vulture" who shows foreclosed properties to clients in Miami. We see people re occupy their foreclosed homes in Florida and demand their promised payoff from a shuttered factory in Chicago.
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We're told of the widespread practice of companies taking out secret insurance policies on their employees so that they literally profit by your death.
There's a lot of depressing information about the depths of corporate wrongdoing and the lengths to which the villains have gone in redistributing wealth and power to a handful of people at a handful of Wall Street firms.
Priests decry the "immoral" and "radically evil" ethos of capitalism. Secret memos from Citibank celebrate the new American "plutocracy," set up for and governed by the rich.
Moore pulls a few stunts — trying to stage citizens' arrests at Goldman Sachs and AIG. He rents an armored truck and demands repayment of bailout money. He names the usual suspects — Reagan and Bush, but also Clinton treasury secretaries and Obama's Timothy Geithner.
And then he calls for the pitchforks.
Capitalism is alternately moving and disheartening, energizing and enervating. Even if you don't wholly buy Moore's self-proclaimed prophet status, the evidence in Capitalism: A Love Story might convince you that the semantics game that turned this "market" system into an American religion isn't working, and labeling alternatives "socialism" no longer ends that argument.