The most interesting aspect of Capitalism: A Love Story, the latest doc from the once-radical Michael Moore, has nothing to do with the film’s subject matter, a sprawling indictment of the economic culture that’s led the country to become America, Inc. No, what’s fascinating about this unfocused diatribe is that Mr. Moore, the liberal face of Middle America, has finally given up on the American audience.
The film opens with a theme song by Detroit’s own homeboy, Iggy Pop, set to surveillance camera images of bank robberies in progress, then promptly zigzags between old-movie and industrial promo footage and sober interviews with often-perplexed talking heads. Sprinkled in is the typical Moore shtick, from his arrival at the Goldman Sachs building to “get the money back” to his manipulation of stock imagery so that Jesus is nailed to a cross on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and the blond chick in a commercial for the nation’s largest mortgage company, Countrywide, speaks in a Godfather-like tone. It’s all as cutesy and harmless as the little ditty that champions “Cleveland…we’re not Detroit!” In fact, Moore’s over-reliance on slick tricks in lieu of deep thinking actually turns this “love story” into Capitalism for Dummies.
Anything of substance that Moore presents—from the heartbreaking stories of the middle-class folks trapped in the foreclosure crisis to the fact that our Treasury Department is run by former employees of Goldman Sachs—is old news. Moore covers issues such as the birth of obscure financial instruments and how our kids are being taught that “greed is good,” conjuring up dubious connections between subjects that aren’t necessarily related. This results in a puzzlingly simplistic boiling down of issues. For example, Moore shows how our best and brightest in science and math are choosing financial occupations over engineering and medicine to pay off those Bank of America student loans—and thus land on Wall Street working on credit default swaps! As the lumbering Moore swings from interviewing his friend Wallace Shawn about free enterprise, to the snakelike head of a company called Condo Vultures, to a lawyer explaining “dead peasant” insurance policies, he grows increasingly disconnected from his own bigger picture, covering a lot of ground but not digging very deep.