Roger & Me.......Muckraking in a Tattered Town
May 5, 2005 (Updated Nov 6, 2005)
Review by Tom Barnes
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Faintly amusing cat and mouse play with Mr. Smith
Cons:Stylistically challenged, Mr. Moore predictably gets on his soapbox
The Bottom Line: See this one for the history presented, if not for its muckraking style. A terminally sad film, it still bears watching.
The Doc must have been thinking of me when she rented Michael Moore's documentary film Roger & Me. She knows I'm no great fan of the automobile, nor of the automobile industry. This is the only film of Mr. Moore's that I've seen thus far.
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Moore, a native of Flint, Michigan, decided to make a documentary film about the closing of the General Motors plant in Flint, birthplace of General Motors. That this heartless corporation would turn its cold, corporate back on its home town is inconceivable to Moore. Therein lies the central flaw of the film. Corporations are rarely benevolent in these days of cost trimming and plant shutdowns.
The film takes us through the grimy and depressing streets of Flint. We are treated to scores of evictions and scenes of protesting plant workers. The first part of the film features old clips of the automobile plant in happier days. Moore's premise is his quest to speak directly with Roger Smith, the CEO of General Motors. To this end, we are subjected to repeated and ridiculous attempts to meet the chairman on his own turf. Having been spurned at the headquarters, Moore blithely ascends the steps of the Detroit Athletic Club and the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club to inquire about Smith's whereabouts. We are supposed to feel empathy for Mr. Moore as he is summarily turfed from each of them. Such grandstanding might have been expected from Moore and might even have proved diverting for a moment. The gag is repeated to the point that it is nothing less than irritating.
Are there new jobs for the good people of Flint? Moore would have you believe that the only new jobs were at the Taco Bell, or perhaps skinning bunnies for a living. The gratuitous scene in which a rabbit breeder decapitates a rabbit would be enough to send PETA after her.
The endless repetition of evictions is supplemented with the futile attempts of this tough town to reinvent itself as a tourist attraction. Moore shows us clips of the chirpy chamber of commerce types as they extol the virtues of the new Hyatt and the adjacent Auto World indoor theme park, both touted to engender a renaissance for the sad downtown. For the record, both are now closed.
Moore's suggestion that General Motors is solely responsible for the destruction of this city is the central feature of this film. While I don't care for the idea of exporting jobs to maquiladoras across our borders, I don't exactly buy the line that Moore preaches here. Moore's empathy for the people of his city is understandable. His muckraking film, though, doesn't allow for much dissent. Do watch this film, as it is historically interesting, but understand that this is a diatribe, whatever its merits.
The "cast" is a collection of Flint residents and others. Appearances by Anita Bryant, Pat Boone, Bob Eubanks and others add interest, if not a lot of content to the film. As for cinematography, the film is almost purposefully without it. We are invited to champion the underdog here, and in the most blatant terms. As many of us have learned by now, there is no middle ground with Mr. Moore.
Roger & Me
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