Capitalism: A Love Story is a 2009 American documentary film directed, written by and starring Michael Moore. The film centers on the late-2000s financial crisis and the recovery stimulus, while putting forward an indictment of the current economic order in the United States and capitalism in general. Topics covered include Wall Street's "casino mentality", for-profit prisons, Goldman Sachs' influence in Washington, D.C., the poverty-level wages of many workers, the large wave of home foreclosures, corporate-owned life insurance, and the consequences of "runaway greed". The film also features a religious component where Moore examines whether or not capitalism is a sin and if Jesus would be a capitalist, in order to shine light on the ideological contradictions among evangelical conservatives who support free market ideals.
The film was widely released to the public in the United States and Canada on October 2, 2009. Reviews were generally positive. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 9, 2010.
- 2 Production
- 3 Release
- 4 Awards and honors
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The film begins with a series of security footage of armed bank robberies (one of the robbers was even on a crutch) accompanied by the song Louie, Louie. Moore then uses anEncyclopædia Britannica archive video to compare modern-day America with the Roman Empire.[how?] The film then depicts home videos of families being evicted from their homes, as well as the "Condo Vultures," a Florida real estate agency whose business flourished with the increasing number of foreclosures.
The film then cuts back to the past "golden days" of American capitalism following World War II, followed by a "bummer" speech by President Jimmy Carter warning Americans of the dangers of worshiping "self-indulgence and consumption". In the following Ronald Reagan years where the policies of Don Regan "turned the bull loose" for free enterprises, corporations gained more political power, unions were weakened, and socioeconomic gaps were widened. Moore suggests that Reagan was favored for his charisma and communication skills rather than effective leadership, and highlights one of Reagan's speeches in which Regan, somewhat indiscreetly, orders Reagan to "speed it up", and Reagan quickly obeys. The film then cuts to thekids for cash scandal, Captain Chesley Sullenberger's congressional testimony regarding airline pilots' poor treatment, and coverage of "dead peasant insurance" policies, where companies such as Wal-Mart have insurance against losses caused when workers or suppliers die. Moore then interviews several Catholic priests, including Bishop Thomas Gumbleton (Archdiocese of Detroit), all of whom consider capitalism a "radical evil" contrary to the teachings of Christianity. The film then presents a parody of what would happen if Jesus was a capitalist who wanted to "maximize profits," "deregulate the banking industry," and wanted the sick to "pay out of pocket" for their "pre-existing condition" (via clips from the 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth), in contrast with several news pundits who proclaim the success of various capitalist enterprises as being a "blessing from God."
After referring to Dr. Jonas Salk, who for the public good, selflessly refused to patent the polio vaccine (asking, "Could you patent the sun?"), Moore wonders about how the brightest of America's young generation are attracted into finance instead of science. Moore then goes to Wall Street seeking technical explanation about derivatives and credit default swaps, only to be advised "don't make any more movies". Eventually Marcus Haupt, a former VP of Lehman Brothers, agrees to help but fails at clearly explaining these terms. Harvard professor Kenneth Rogoff similarly fails. Moore eventually concludes that the complex system and terminology are merely there to confuse and "get away with murder", and Wall Street is just "an insane casino."
Moore then explores the role of Alan Greenspan and the U.S. Treasury in leading up to the United States housing bubble that devastated the American middle class. Moore also interviews a former employee at Countrywide Financial responsible for their VIP program for "FOAs" and details how many members of Congress and political figures received favorable mortgage ratesunder the program. Moore then discusses with William Black, who analogizes the situation to the build-up of the collapse of a dam. The film then shows the series of events leading up to the passing of the 2008 bailout proposed by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (also the former CEO of Goldman Sachs). Moore then speaks with several Members of Congress, including Ohio congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, who agrees with Moore's comment that the passing of the bailout was a "financial coup d'état".
Moore interviews Elizabeth Warren, the head of the US Congressional Oversight Committee, the government agency serving as a watchdog for Congress' wrongdoing. He asks her, "Where's our money?", referring to the $700 billion bailout money which Congress gave to the big banks and Wall Street investment companies. Warren replies, "I don't know." Advised by Warren to contact Paulson's office for answers, Moore's call is promptly disconnected upon recognition of his identity. He then goes to Wall Street demanding to "get the money back for the American people", but is denied entry into every office building of the major banks.
The documentary features a number of positive portrayals, which include bailout watchdog Elizabeth Warren, Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans, who put forth a moratorium on home evictions, and Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur, who on the floor of the US Congress encouraged Americans to be "squatters" in their own homes, and refuse to vacate. The film also states that President Barack Obama's campaign caused only 37 percent of young adults to favor capitalism over socialism (although this claim was later disputed with support from youth polls by Fox News and the Pew Research Center).
The film then shows that in the year following Franklin D. Roosevelt's death (including TV footage of his proposed Second Bill of Rights) and the Allied victory in World War II, many of the defeated nations were given the rights proposed by FDR, but Americans were not. The film then jumps ahead 60 years to show the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which Moore suggests would have been less severe were it not for the economic system which made Wall Street rich while forcing residents of New Orleans to live in a poorly-maintained neighborhood.
The film closes with Moore placing police lines around numerous banks, and lastly, Wall Street itself. In his closing speech, Moore declares that capitalism is an evil which can only be eliminated and replaced with the goodness of democracy - rule by the people, not by money. He asks all those who agree to "speed it up," referencing the aforementioned phrase by Don Regan to President Ronald Reagan during one of the latter's speeches.
During the Cannes Film Festival in 2008, Overture Films and Paramount Vantage announced an upcoming project by director Michael Moore, though at the time they were vague about the project's theme. Originally thought to be a follow-up to the 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11, it was revealed that Moore's film was to be a documentary about the financial crisis of 2007–2010. In February 2009, he issued an appeal to people who worked for Wall Street or in the financial industry to share firsthand information, requesting, "Be a hero and help me expose the biggest swindle in American history."
Capitalism: A Love Story premiered at the 66th Venice International Film Festival on September 6, 2009. The film also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 13 and at the New York Film Festival on September 21. On September 23, the film had a limited release at two theaters in New York City and two theaters in Los Angeles, grossing $37,832 in its first day for a $9,458 per theater average. The theater average was considered strong, though it did not beat the record opening of Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, which grossed $83,922 at two theaters in one day. Over the weekend of September 25, Capitalism grossed $231,964 in the four theaters. The film had a wide release in 995 theaters in the United States and Canada on October 2, 2009, about a year after the enacting of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which approved a $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.The film opened in eighth place at the box office on the first weekend of its wide release, grossing $4,447,378. The final domestic total was $14,363,397, making it the 12th highest grossing documentary in history (2012).
The review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 75% out of 141 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 6.7 out of 10. Similar website Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to mainstream critics' reviews, reported that the film has received an average score of 61 based on 35 reviews.
Deborah Young, writing for the trade paper The Hollywood Reporter, wrote of Capitalism: A Love Story, "Although it's less focused than Sicko or Fahrenheit 9/11... because its subject is more abstract, this is a typical Moore oeuvre: funny, often over the top and of dubious documentation, but with strongly made points that leave viewers much to ponder and debate after they walk out of the theater." Young acknowledged Moore's simplification of the topic and added, "But here his talent is evident in creating two hours of engrossing cinema by contrasting a fast-moving montage of '50s archive images extolling free enterprise with the economic disaster of the present." The critic noted whom the documentary targeted: "Though it blames all political parties, including the Democrats, for caving in with the bailout, the film is careful to spare President Barack Obama, who remains a symbol of hope for justice."
Leslie Felperin of the trade paper Variety wrote, "Pic's target is less capitalism qua capitalism than the banking industry, which Moore skewers ruthlessly, explaining last year's economic meltdown in terms a sixth-grader could understand. That said, there's still plenty here to annoy right-wingers, as well as those who, however much they agree with Moore's politics, just can't stomach his oversimplification, on-the-nose sentimentality and goofball japery." Felperin said that the documentary was similarly structured to Moore's previous documentaries, "Capitalism skips around considerably, laying down a mix of reportage, interviews and polemic." Felperin observed Moore's prominent role in his own documentary, believing it to be justified with relevance to crises in the automobile industry that Moore's family personally encountered. The critic complained that Moore strove "to manipulate viewers' emotions with shots of crying children and tearjerking musical choices", believing that the documentary worked better when the director let the topic unfold through various accounts.
The film is brilliantly researched, both with regard to the labyrinthine web of connections between the world of finance and the corridors of power and the wittily used archive footage. Interviews with Senate insiders and financial experts are informative, and there’s an amusing sequence in which he quizzes a selection of priests and bishops who opine that capitalism is “evil” and was not, in fact, the preferred economic model of Our Lord. Then Moore goes and spoils it all by hauling out his trusty bullhorn for a series of lame stunts. Like the complacent clown prince of agitprop, Moore hectors Wall Street doormen and security guards, while the company bosses remain in their fortress made of money, blissfully unaware of the fat man making a scene on the street far below....But for all his cheap tactics, Moore mounts a persuasive case that something is rotten in the current economic system.
The Associated Press's national business columnist Rachel Beck reviewed the accuracy of three points made in Capitalism:
- Three months after a scene in which Moore approaches Goldman Sachs headquarters to reclaim taxpayers' funds, the bank was one of the ten that repaid part of the $68 billion received from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Moore responded to the action: "We're not talking about the majority of people who took the money ... not even 10 percent of the $700 billion has been returned."
- Moore criticizes Wal-Mart for "dead peasant" policies, all 350,000 of which were cancelled in 2000. However, Moore notes that the termination of the policies was covered in the presentation of facts and quotes in the closing credits.
- The documentary criticizes Senator Christopher Dodd and other government officials for benefiting from exclusive financial programs; Moore lambasts Dodd in particular for predatory lending as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. The AP reported that the interest rates and fees involved were norms for the industry, and that the Senate's Select Committee on Ethics cleared Dodd and Kent Conrad of getting special treatments, though it cautioned the senators to exercise "more vigilance" with such deals.
The Association of Advanced Life Underwriting issued a statement that Moore "mischaracterized" corporate owned life insurance, stating that the issues were addressed by Congress in the 1990s and again in 2006. The AALU further states that corporate-owned life insurance (COLI) is only taken out on highly compensated employees, and only with their knowledge and consent, that COLI finances employee benefits and protects jobs and that employees pay nothing for COLI, but receive substantial benefits.
Upon the film's February 2010 theatrical release in the United Kingdom, film critic Mark Kermode, appearing on The Culture Show, asked the BBC's business editor Robert Peston whether Moore's "crusading" had been based on a misrepresentation of American capitalism. Canada's Centre for Research on Globalisation characterized the response: "Peston cannot fault the facts of the movie, though he appears a little uncomfortable having to say so."
Religion expert Anthony Stevens-Arroyo stated that the film should be considered "a special kind of Catholic achievement" and asked whether Michael Moore should be named "Catholic of the Year" for raising the serious issues in the context of Catholic teachings, and for presenting "Catholic currents of social justice" in the film.
At the Venice Film Festival, Moore won the "Leoncino d'Oro" ("Little Golden Lion") award for his documentary, and he also received the festival's Open Prize. The documentary was also nominated for the festival's Golden Lion award, but lost to Lebanon.