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Starring: Michael Moore

Directed by: Michael Moore

Produced by: Meghan O Hara

Written by: Michael Moore

Distributor: Lionsgate, The Weinstein Company


     Many of my regular readers whose personal views lean toward the left end of the political spectrum often argue that my conservative mind has never given Michael Moore a fair shake. Despite the fact that I wrote fairly mixed reviews of Bowling for Columbine and Roger & Me, said readers (who I receive angry e-mails from time and time again) contend that I have never walked into a Michael Moore “documentary” wearing an unbiased pair of eyes. They would claim that the only reason that I have attended all of Moore’s films either at pre-screenings or on opening day is that my apparent and seemingly open-minded patronage of his efforts allows me to get off easy when I later calculatedly bash whatever points Moore makes during the picture in question.

     Let me make this clear: I watch all movies with a conservative mindset. Anyone who checks his or her personal beliefs at the door when attending a screening doesn’t understand the very purpose of film itself (a medium which, like all forms of art, lends itself to audience response). However, this does not mean that I am in any way not open to what Moore has to say in his films; it simply implies that I know what I believe in as an American and, for Moore to change my mind, it would take one hell of a good argument. In truth, I’m actually a far more legitimate critic of Moore’s work than any liberal who is eager to agree with him at all costs; after all, if art doesn’t challenge us (a notion which Moore’s carefully targeted pictures usually ignore), then it isn’t really valid art at all.

     Although Moore’s Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 both slightly ruffled my feathers, I never hated the filmmaker for making either movie or viewed them as dangerous to the American Public’s well-being (despite some ludicrous trademark-Moore fact-fudging here and there). After all, both pictures functioned as legitimate representations of the views of a great many Americans. I might not have been able to agree with the basic principles that Moore extolled in both films, but I at least came out of them feeling more knowledgeable on the views and concerns of the American Left. Moore’s latest picture, Sicko, on the other hand, is a different story. It’s a complete abomination and, as far as I’m concerned, an ill-conceived and mean-spirited push for the institution of radical communism in the United States.

     Part of the reason why Sicko is so dangerously anti-American is because of its seemingly docile and agreeable subject: the wrongdoings of the American Healthcare Industry. At one point of another, every American has encountered his or her fair share of problems with a doctor, a hospital, or a pharmacy in the U.S., making the subject instantly identifiable. Moore, of course, uses this connection with the audience to affect viewers when depicting strong extremes of the Health Industry gone wrong, such as the death of a man who was denied coverage for a blood marrow transplant that could’ve saved his life and the death of a child due to an insurance company refusing to cover her at a certain hospital.

     Heavy-handed examples in tow, Moore first tries to make a case for the socialization of medicine. All right: I can accept this. I believe that socializing medicine would be thoroughly detrimental to the United States and would threaten the capitalistic society that the country supports, but I am willing to acknowledge that a solid percentage of Americans and Congressmen believe that this might be the right thing to do. (Likely future President Hillary Clinton, who the film actually bashes in an attempt to seem more balanced, is one of the most vocal advocates of a universal-healthcare system for the U.S.) At this point in the film, despite the clear emotional manipulation under way, I was willing to accept what Moore was dishing at me and walk with it. After waiting an hour in line to get into the pre-screening, I at least wanted to see what he had to say about the matter.

     But this exact moment in the film—right when Moore has the audience’s disbelief at his fingertips—is when things begin to take a turn for the worst. Moore proceeds to question why people are afraid of socialism in the first place, providing an eerie montage of the paranoia surrounding the form of government. Moments later, he basically concludes that socialism ain’t that bad after all, and asserts that he believes that representative government would be a good thing for the United States to abandon in favor of a more equalized and centralized form of rule. Moore decides, in a seemingly logical (but totally loony) manner that college education and several other services should all be socialized in addition to healthcare. He argues for full-scale domestic income redistribution, basically commenting that communism and Marxism wouldn’t be so bad for the U.S. to embrace in the contemporary age. He’s so assured and comfortable with this dangerous thought that inattentive or uneducated viewers might actually buy his suggestions, which is why Sicko is ultimately such an irresponsible assault on the Constitutional values of America.

     Moore later decides to prove that variants of socialism have worked in other countries by traveling to Canada, the United Kingdom, and France and interviewing citizens, healthcare professions, and politicians in the various systems. The segments in Canada and the U.K. are rather short, but are nonetheless totally manipulative. Moore skirts over the central conservative arguments against socialized medicine/government programs altogether. He merely makes a mockery of the high taxation rates in the countries that finance socialized programs, never asking the interviewees what they actually think of the high taxes they pay (rather, he phrases the question comically, in ways like “You must just be drowning in taxes!?”, as if that would illicit any kind of serious response in his subjects). Conveniently, the one middle-class couple he does interview has a combined income of roughly $90,000 per year, which provides for a cheap-shot argument that they are able to get by even with the high taxes created by socialized programs. I was waiting to hear from the man with a family of five mouths to feed who makes $20,000 per year, but he apparently wasn’t meant to fit into Moore’s convenient mold of deception used to prove Moore’s points. Sicko, like previous Moore efforts, graces over every imaginable counterpoint in the Book against socialized medicine, pretending as if the only individuals in America who oppose universal healthcare are the representatives receiving pay-outs from HMO-lobbyists.

     France, the country that offers the highest amount of socialized programs in the film, is featured for the bulk of the time Moore spends overseas in Sicko. Throughout the time he spends there, Moore glorifies just about every program that the French government offers and that of the U.S. does not: free nannies, free 24-hour house-visit doctors, and, of course, free healthcare. But Moore again uses this occasion to grace over several pertinent facts regarding the matter, deliberately blindsiding the viewer and providing a half-heated argument that doesn’t hold-water when further analyzed. He conveniently ignores the fact that the French recently elected a very conservative Prime Minister, who promises to oust many of the socialist policies of the country. It’s also never mentioned that France’s unemployment rate under Jacques Chirac (who created many of the programs he raves of) last year was roughly 9%, nearly 5% higher than that of the free-market United States. I dunno about you, but I’d rather have a job and use my income to pay for a solid healthcare plan (Moore pretends as if these do not exist, but that’s only because many Americans would need lower taxes to be able to afford one, an idea his clearly-socialist being can’t stomach) than have no job and a receive a government-paid euthanasia injection when I suffer from starvation due to a lack of funds to pay for food.

     The segment of Sicko that seems to be getting the most publicity (and the one that the United States government is supposedly criminally investigating) involves Moore taking a group of 9/11 rescue workers to receive proper medical treatment for their ailments in Cuba, after American health insurance companies reject them. Moore does make one good point here: the despicable terrorist inmates at Guantanamo Bay receive full healthcare from the American government, and yet several 9/11 rescue workers have ironically and tragically received no help at all. But, here’s the true fact of the matter: if the men and women involved in the segment hadn’t been doing a service for the government (let’s say they suffered lung injuries working in construction due to exposure to asbestos instead), then the rational audience wouldn’t feel that the government had an obligation to treat the workers. Yes, these 9/11 volunteers should be provided free medical treatment for their injuries, but this has nothing to do with providing universal-healthcare for the rest of America. The two subjects are entirely unrelated, in fact. Moore simply exploits the workers in order to somehow prove that Cuba (where they do receive treatment) is a superior nation to the United States. Knowing that he would be rejected entrance to Guantanamo Bay, Moore planned the illegal trip to Cuba as a publicity stunt, in which the workers would be beautifully cared for by a “caring” team of doctors and nurses. (A salute to the workers after they receive treatment by a Cuban firehouse proves particularly ridiculous and manipulative, given Fidel Castro probably had all of the firemen executed later in the day for doing so.) Moore uses the whole setup as a way to suggest that ‘ol Castro isn’t such a horrible dictator after all, and that maybe the United States should follow his communist-example when it comes to certain areas of government. This is when the movie is at its most dangerous; Moore’s practical handling of the situation is so low-key that his opinion is highly easy for one who is not well versed in the subject-matter to take at face value and believe to be correct.

     In the past, I have admired Moore as a businessman and a filmmaker, if not a political activist. He found a built-in audience (liberals, more specifically the older-hippie crowd) made films for them, and reaped millions of dollars in the process. I no longer feel this way about him after this film. The sale of tickets to Sicko is essentially a perverse form of prostitution, with Moore and the executive-producing Weinstein Brothers the pimps and America the mutilated hooker. Moore may be willing to sell America out to half-baked theories and powerless intentions, but I certainly am not. The liberal press will love Sicko by default, but I hope and pray that Americans on the whole are not stupid enough to fall for its manipulative antics. This is a dangerous film, quite possibly the Birth of a Nation of our time. It’s skillfully calculated and assembled, but offensive and vile in its intentions. Moore has fashioned a true insult to the hard work and freedom that feed American Capitalism and allow the current domestic system to thrive.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 6.29.2007

Screened on: 6.16.2007 at the Landmark La Jolla Village in La Jolla, CA.


Sicko is rated PG-13 and runs 123 minutes.

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