2007 Summer Movie Write Up – Part One

28 Jun

Hello, and Welcome to part one of Juno’s 2007 Summer Movie Write Up. If you’d like to make that sentence as exciting as possible please go back and read it out loud with your best MoviePhone Voice impersonation. Today (since it comes out tomorrow) I cover Michael Moore’s new movie, Sicko, which is about the American health care system. The trailer can be seen here (although having seen the movie I must say that it’s a pretty terrible trailer. The tone of the film is entirely different, and some of that stuff isn’t even in the movie.) Other movies that will be covered include:

Shrek the Third
Live Free or Die Hard
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Spiderman 3
Ratatouille
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Oceans 13

           Michael Moore is famous for being somewhat sensationalist. According to his reputation he’s concerned more about audience reaction than accuracy. Make no mistake, his TV show and movies support this reputation, and he is nothing if not a talented entertainer. Making films that end up with reputations as “documentaries” while eschewing accuracy for entertainment is a dangerous game, and it’s one he doesn’t totally win with Sicko, but I do think it’s the best he’s done, especially compared to his more recent fare of Fahrenheit 9-11 and Bowling for Columbine. This is mainly because the point of Sicko is bigger (and I would say more important) than anything else he’s done.
           Experience is the great determiner of human knowledge. The only way to really “know” anything is to experience it. Can one person’s experiences accurately present the complex story of America’s health care system in a simplified one-sided way? Not necessarily, but it is that person’s experience and that can’t be argued. For them at least, it is totally true. Much of Sicko consists of just this kind of presentation, which makes the movie immensely powerful. Perhaps he managed to find the only people in the country that get screwed over by America’s health care system, (not likely) but that doesn’t invalidate their experience or his main point. I’m sure there are people who love and have been saved by America’s health care system too, but they sure as hell aren’t in the movie. Does that make it sensationalist? Perhaps, but the point of the movie is still valid, powerful, and important, as are the stories of those that are in the film.
           Sicko introduces us first to people who don’t have insurance and have had to pay (or not) the price. These few people certainly had some unfortunate tales, but Michael Moore informs that the movie isn’t about them. Instead the movie is about the people that do have health insurance. Why? Because health insurance companies exist to make money, and they do that by not paying doctors and hospitals. The few people in the movie who don’t have health insurance get dwarfed by the myriad group of people that do have health insurance, but don’t have their health care paid for by it.
           Sicko (a terrible title, by the way) has footage of an (ex) insurance employee swearing in court that she is responsible for killing a man because she denied his claim, which meant he didn’t get the operation he needed. Why did she do this? It got her a promotion. Do all insurance employees do this? Do all insurance companies value the dollar over the health of their insured? Probably not… but Michael Moore shows that some, without a doubt, do. And they get rich doing it.
            The movie then follows Michael Moore as he follows a woman into Canada where she claims to be a citizen in order to get free health care. It’s illegal (as demonstrated by the cops showing up) but she does get the care she needs by running to the next-closest hospital where the cops aren’t. Michael Moore then travels to Canada, France, and London and asks locals how much their hospital stay cost, how much the house call by the doctor cost, how much they had to pay for surgery, etc. Always the answer is nothing. It’s all free. Are there citizens of these countries that get screwed over by their free/socialist/tax-funded health care system? Possibly, but they’re not in the movie. That doesn’t make experience and truth of the people in the movie any less valid. Does that make the movie sensationalist? Perhaps, but the overall point is still potent and true.
            I’m not going to go through the whole movie here (obviously I think you should see it for yourselves) but I would like to point out that it could very very easily have been even more sensationalist, and one-sided and, well, Michael Moore-ish. He doesn’t go bang on the doors of Kaiser Permanenté, or yell at Blue Cross and demand they atone for murder. He could, but he doesn’t. Because he doesn’t have to. Because Sicko is about something more important than simplification, petty politics, sensationalism, and fear of socialism.
            It’s about being humane.
            It’s about the fact that we, as humans, have a right to a healthy life. The point of Sicko is that we’re all human, so we should be given health care, whether we can afford insurance or not. It’s just humane. It’s just right. I can’t afford (and don’t currently have) health insurance. According to Sicko if I go to an American hospital and can’t afford my treatment the hospital will dump me on the street next to a shelter. (There is footage of this actually happening to an elderly woman in the movie. She is dumped, barefoot, still in the hospital robe, onto the street.) In France if I can’t afford my treatment it is given to me anyways, because I need it. And then I am given paid leave until I am better. Is this portrayal accurate? Is Michael Moore twisting things a little bit to tell a story? I don’t know. For the people in the movie though, yes, it is absolutely true. America (if not the entire world) should be like the France (or even the Cuba) of Sicko. If you’re sick, you need care. Period. You should get it. Period. Your country (if not your world) should provide it to you. Period.
            Perhaps we should all be provided with tickets to Sicko too. It may not be the best movie of the summer, but it’s probably the most important.

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One Response to “2007 Summer Movie Write Up – Part One”

  1. tinycaredance June 29, 2007 at 12:38 pm #

    harrrrrrrrrrrrrry potttterrrrrr

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