So squeezed in between the deluge of coverage about the iPhone, I’ve seen comments and reviews here and there on SiCKO. The reviews have lauded it as being good viewing as well as important, which was good to hear, since Sherry and I had tickets for today. As she notes, we wondered initially if it was ironic or appropriate for two Canadians to go see a movie on the American healthcare system on Canada Day. Turns out it was appropriate.
There’s really nothing much more I need to add to what Sherry said. I concur wholeheartedly (not surprisingly). While Michael Moore has never had a problem telling stories or making a point, some of his films, like Fahrenheit 9/11, were more like getting hit in the head with a brick than watching a film. Not so heavy on the subtlety. Here Moore steps back a bit. The stories, the people, the statistics, speak for themselves. I mean, it’s hard to not be affected by the blunt force trauma realization of a system that is intentionally killing people to make profits.
Many of the movies best bon mots and pearls of wisdom come from the people he talks to, simply in the course of conversation. There are equal parts unbelievable power and sadness in asking, or attempting to ask, “why” in this movie. And, at times, Moore, to his credit, relies on a single expression to make a point. Like the Canadian guy who has had half his hand re-attached after an industrial accident, being told about the gentleman from the beginning of the movie who, upon accidentally severing the ends of two fingers with a table saw at home, gets to choose which one he’ll have reattached — the ring finger for $12,000 or the middle finger for $60,000. Ever the “romantic”, he chooses the ring finger. The “WTF?” look is priceless.
Towards the beginning, my first kick in the gut came when Moore introduced us to a couple who’d been bankrupted by the husband’s three heart attacks and the wife’s cancer. They were in the process of moving in with one of their daughters, who, it seemed, couldn’t even be bothered to clear out a room in her basement for them. It was a combination computer and storage room, and there was crap everywhere. Umm… hello, these are your PARENTS?
Shortly after, one of their sons made me want to beat him with a stick when he basically said, “Yeah, it sucks to be you, but what about us who have to pay for you and help you move your stuff every couple months and whatnot?” Again… these are your PARENTS. Parents who raised six kids, worked hard, lost everything, and have had to leave their dignity at the door, while at the same time dealing with trying to keep themselves alive. How dare they need help.
My heart broke for this woman, standing there with tears in her eyes, looking down at her 20-something son sitting on the couch, and apologizing, saying they’d never planned this. It occurred to me before too long that their son was an embodiment of many of the “why” questions Michael Moore would ask about the American people and who and what they’d become.
It’s almost too much, I think, to show the ex-pat Americans living in France, talking about their lives there. Universal healthcare, government-subsidized nannies, minimum five weeks of vacation a year, etc. I mean, Americans can at least kind get Canada, but even I had trouble relating to that lifestyle (and pondered perhaps just not leaving when Sherry and I get our butts over there…) 🙂
And I was pleased to see that despite criticism for it (well-earned in the past) Moore didn’t lean too heavily on Canada as the true land of the free and home of the brave this time. He even admitted that we do sometimes complain about wait times and things. Yes, he did give our healthcare system a pretty good polish, but it wasn’t a bad presentation. And having a member of the Conservative party talking about Tommy Douglas (Jack Bauer’s grandpa!) and how he didn’t think political party affiliation had anything to do with believing healthcare was a universal right was well done. (The gentleman had had a golfing accident in Florida that, despite insurance, would have cost him $24,000 to have repaired there. He came home.)
One of the most powerful comments came from the person in France who noted that in France, the government is afraid of the people — the people’s will, the people’s mobilization. Whereas in America, the people seem to be afraid of the government. Though their respective revolutions didn’t happen all that far apart, the French seem to remember theirs, and the Americans seem to have forgotten. The French aren’t afraid to protest, to demand change.
As the former British parliamentarian noted, people who are demoralized and hopeless don’t raise a stink, don’t try to fight, and don’t insist they deserve better. Governments have a vested interest in keeping them that way, and if the lower classes in the US actually did revolt — protests, voting for change, etc. — then America might well be a very different place, indeed.
While there were many affecting parts to the movie, the only time tears escaped was when the American rescue workers whose health had been damaged at Ground Zero went to a Cuban fire station so the firefighters there could pay their respects and express solidarity. Their captain even said that they wanted to have gone and helped — would have gone and helped — if they’d been allowed. These people exchanged hugs and demonstrations of equipment and techniques, and, I’m sure, war stories, and nationality was irrelevant. Except that, of course, like the French, Americans are supposed to hate Cubans.
I agree with everyone who’s said this movie is important and should be required viewing. However, I also agree with Sherry in that it will probably largely be seen by people who already get it. Which tends to leave us annoyed and agreeing with… ourselves, and doesn’t necessarily change much.