Roger & Me (1989)
Nov 15, 1999
Review by BrianKoller
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:originality, editing, humor, writing
Flint, Michigan is the birthplace of General Motors, and was at one time the site of eleven of their factories. During the 1980s, GM Chairman Roger Smith began shutting these factories down. He replaced them with new plants in Mexico, where the workers were supposedly paid seventy cents an hour. Flint was devastated by the factory closures, which laid off some thirty thousand workers. Parts of Flint became a ghost town, with abandoned houses and shops boarded up and strewn with garbage. Crime rates soared, and Money magazine proclaimed Flint as the worst American city to live in.
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This bleak scenario is the backdrop for "Roger & Me". Michael Moore, then a little-known left-wing journalist, was raised in Flint. He acquired a camera crew and made a biting, extremely well-edited documentary on the decline of Flint. He places the blame on corporate greed in general, and Roger Smith in particular.
"Roger & Me" has several themes. The first is to demonstrate the indifference and condescension of the rich. The second is to document the effect of a failed economy on its people. The third theme is to pester the rich until they recognize the first two themes. Of course, Moore realizes that the third theme is hopeless, but as a budding filmmaker, he also knows that it makes for great, cynical entertainment.
Still, the best moments in "Roger & Me" don't come from Michael's quixotic stalking of the breezy, self-satisfied Smith. Moore is at his best capturing the bleak future of unemployed former workers. We see them evicted from their homes, sent to prison, reduced to peddling Amway products, and raising rabbits for a meager second income.
The latter vignette is almost as disturbing as the armed street crazy who wears a cape like Superman. A woman has posted a homemade sign selling rabbits as pets or meat. Naturally, Moore investigates, and talks the woman into demonstrating the meat aspect of a rabbit. Little Thumper is slaughtered and skinned on camera, which may be a very traumatic scene for some children.
"Roger & Me" also teaches us the shallowness of celebrity. Bob Eubanks, the insipid master of innuendo and host of "The Dating Game", tells some ill-advised ethnic jokes. Former Miss America Anita Bryant sings dreadfully, and offers unhelpful advice to the unemployed. Future Miss America Kaye Lani Rae Rafko smiles widely, and tries hard to work up sympathy for the poor. In contrast, Pat Boone comes off well. Who wouldn't be a corporate shill in return for a new Corvette every year?
Whether or not you agree with Michael Moore's politics, he certainly has a talent for finding the bitter humor in the bleakest situations. (81/100)
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