Saw the film last night, and was impressed by certain elements in it and certain elements not in it.
I was surprised and glad that the film avoided putting a rhetorical bull's-eye on the Bush administration. It must have been tempting for Moore to appease his base with broadsides, but the film was smart to take a longer view, and to appropriately blame instead:
Richard Nixon. Moore has shown a tendency in all his films to recognize the short and simple nature of the American memory, while also recognizing that Americans instinctually despise education. The understanding of an issue is helped enormously by historical examination, and Moore's brief forays in this direction anchor his films in a substantive way.
I was less thrilled with Moore's comparative approach, never really grounding his comparative points with facts, only with feelings - the immense frustrations of the American middle/working class struggling with health problems compared with the holistic and caring approach found in other countries. I think this will resonate with the American audience, because there is immense frustration with the American system, and it does fail more than it should. However, the comparative approach lacks substance, and accomodates the tendency of it audience to see things as black-or-white, good-or-bad. Moore's approach is a little sloppy here - although his points are, again, substantive and serious.
Sicko was perhaps the least comedic film Moore has ever made. It was more overwhelmingly direct than Bowling for Columbine and more analytical than Fahrenheit 9/11. It felt and seemed impersonal- Moore announced that he called for storied from the public, and then presented some of what he'd found, and later showed the effect of the US healthcare problem even on his opponents, and that was the extent of his direct involvement in this subject - with the exception of a brief bit featring his Canadian relatives.
I think this is an important film, but I go back to the sentiments I had after Fahrenheit 9/11 in thinking the subject needs the media glare and compassion that Moore provides, but needs the objectivity and analysis that Moore is too clumsy to provide very well. I think the film will have an impact on the 2008 presidential race, and will make an impact on American culture, but like the factual revelations of his earlier films, I think this new information is unlikely to have the invigorating effect it should in our political culture. It is, like Roger & Me a personal testimony which documents a critical American failure. As such, it will be disputed loudly and we can only hope that the debate this time will prove more useful and empowering than it has in the past.
I think this is Moore's best film in 10 years. It is certainly harder to watch than his previous 2, and the topic at hand is bigger and more complex than anything he's approached to date. The questions it raises are as difficult for one political party as they are for the other, and the questions it notably doesn't raise about the cost and ability of the country to provide what Moore believes we should are more vital and significant than who authorized the flights exporting the Bin Laden family, or which group is responsible for the "gun-show loophole." As such, I think the reception of this film will be more significant and interesting than anything we've seen before.
It is a great movie, and a significantly better movie than I'd anticipated. it is seriously flawed, but not in the predictable and cliched manner I'd expected. This is a film which should have cultural effects beyond the typical shouting-heads on TV.
Wa dika xajla.