Moore’s latest is a jagged pill to take
Compared to some of the graphic content and material that was seen in his previous films, Michael Moore’s Sicko might be a bit easier to swallow. But audiences will have an unfortunate bitter taste in their mouths in the end.
Instead of trying to take down the Bush administration directly, as in Fahrenheit 9/11, or the gun industry in Bowling for Columbine, Moore takes on an industry by which every American citizen is affected: health care. Sicko is filled with horror stories of people who were deprived of necessary medical attention, and the measures people go through to try to avoid paying large amounts of money for care.
Sicko opens with a montage of these stories, including a man who stitches a wound on his knee and a man whose fingertips were sawed off in an accident and was given the choice of which finger to reattach: He chose the cheaper of the two.
The focus of the film, however, isn’t on these victims, but rather the 250 million of Americans who do have medical coverage, such as a 79-year-old man who works as a janitor because of the prescription drugs he and his wife need are under the company’s plan.
Moore’s notorious snarky comments and humor are strangely absent in the first half of Sicko, letting the victims tell their gruesome stories that pull at the heartstrings of audiences. And that isn’t an exaggeration.
There is an ex-newspaper editor forced to live in her daughter’s basement because the medical bills forced her and husband out of their home; there’s the mother whose insurance carrier refused to give medical attention to her infant daughter; and then there’s the woman whose carrier dropped her because she failed to mention a preexisting condition: a yeast infection.
And it’s not just these human-interest stories that Moore uses in his case against the health care giants. Moore produces names of politicians, not just President Bush, who are in the pockets of health care, including Sen. Hilary Clinton, D-NY, who is the No. 2 recipient of HMO politcal donations, according to Sicko anyway.
The underbelly tactics of HMOs are presented in such a way that an audience member can walk away thinking that the best way to get good health care, at least in America, is to not get sick. In Sicko, HMOs shift through mountains of paperwork to find loopholes to try to drop a client, such as claiming someone who’s too skinny, or finding technicalities that would impede delivering drugs to a patient, which by definition in Sicko means it’s saving the company money.
The film’s focus changes toward foreign health care systems across the pond, and the flaw that is seen in the eyes of American politicians: socialization. Moore interviews a single mother who ventures to Canada and lies about her residency status to be able to get medical attention for her and her children. In Europe, the story is different for those seeking medical assistance.
Moore interviews patients in the United Kingdom and in France (some of who were American) who have sought help in the national health care system, and the measures the government goes through to ensure the health and well being of its citizens.
And after seeing the late-night house calls doctors perform in Paris, audiences might think twice before eating any Freedom Fries. Especially since America’s health care system barely edges out Slovenia’s.
The film isn’t without Moore’s ridiculous antics, which range from a montage of propaganda clips from the Soviet Union, old audio clips of a Ronald Regan record touting the dangers of socializing medicine, shady dealings involving President Nixon, commandeering a fishing boat to infiltrate Guantanamo Bay and Moore’s obsession with trying to get the American government to do his laundry, all of which becomes clear as the film unfolds.
The film is an eye-opener for everyone – especially for British, Canadian and French citizens, all of who seemed surprised at the condition of America’s system. Moore has no qualms in declaring his political affiliation, especially since some parts of the movie do have a left-wing propaganda feel. But just like any of Moore’s films, Sicko will start a dialogue between both sides of the aisle.
It might not be an open dialogue, but at least people are talking about a problem that affects all.