|Review by Sharon Knolle|
In Michael Moore’s latest film, he “invades” several countries to steal the things they’re doing better than America.
Sadly, it’s a long list – including ample paid vacation, free college education, and greater equality for women in business and politics – that are far better than in the U.S.
In the first segment, Moore heads to Italy, where he meets a couple who dream of coming to America: Until they learn that there’s no such thing as eight weeks paid vacation, like they currently have.
Moore visits the Ducati factory and a garment manufacturer where the CEOs laugh at the idea that they should pay their workers less and increase their own profits.
Then their workers wouldn’t be as happy, so what’s the point, they ask, completely puzzled at the idea.
Also, (apparently) everyone in Italy takes a leisurely two-hour lunch. We should be so lucky!
As for lunch in France, Moore is astonished to see that the children at what we are told is a typical elementary school are served a multi-course lunch (complete with cheese course) individually, on china plates.
No lunch trays, no sodas and definitely no sloppy joes, fish sticks or french fries. When Moore smuggles in a can of Coke, only one girl will try it: It’s that foreign to their daily existence. He shows them photos of typical American school lunches with deep-fried and often unidentifiable entrees and they’re horrified.
And so it goes for several countries: Moore finds something they do that’s amazing and as you watch, you start to think, “Damn, maybe I should move to Italy or France or Germany.”
In Norway, he visits a prison where there’s no fear of prison rape in their shower: Every prisoner has their own shower! And the guards don’t beat them up, instead they recorded a welcome video where they all sing!
It all sounds impossibly idyllic, until Moore meets with the father whose son was one of the victims of right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in an infamous (and extremely rare) 2011 attack. Moore doesn’t address the gun control situation or cite mass shooter statistics since he already did that in Bowling for Columbine.
But he is astonished when the grieving father says he doesn’t want Breivik dead and is okay with the fact that, under Norwegian law, no prisoner, no matter what the crime, can be sentenced to jail for longer than 21 years. For a mass murder, that’s extremely troubling to think he’d be back on the street in 17 years. (Moore doesn’t mention that Brievik is likely to be in prison for the rest of his life, since Norway does allow for an extension of that sentence indefinitely as long as he remains a danger to society.)
Likely there are plenty of Norwegians who don’t feel the same as the father, but Moore doesn’t talk to any of them.
Moore is making his case, hands down, that many countries have tackled social and economic issues far better than the U.S., until he gets to Portugal, where they’ve legalized all drugs. An official tells Moore that crime – and not just drug-related crime – is dramatically down. And drug users have access to rehab and health care.
That’s when Moore goes off on a tangent about how the War on Drugs in America is really all about Keeping the Black Man Down. While it may be true that more blacks are arrested for drugs and that one black man in three cannot vote because he is a felon helps continue serious inequality in the country, that does not mean that this is a systemized conspiracy, carried out with the express purpose of racial oppression.
It’s too bad that Moore isn’t content to let the facts speak for themselves. Of course he has an agenda in making this film, but by relying on conspiracy theories, he’s weakening his argument.
Lest you dismiss the entire film as nothing but America-bashing, he ends the film on a “Yay, America!” high note: Most of the ideas being implemented so well in other countries originated in the United States. The American Dream is alive and well, he determines, just not necessarily in America itself. We just need a refresher course and, he clearly hopes, this might be the film to help reignite the spark for Americans to once again be the best country in the world.
There are some great ideas in the film and he’s got a point: We should definitely steal some of them.