Say what you want about Michael Moore, but the man can make a compelling documentary that does more to open up a dialog about the subject than any other medium available. Sure, he has been known to use gotcha tactics for interviews, sometimes manipulate footage that is out of context with the timelines of his topic, or that his documentaries aren’t objective, but they all are powerful pieces of film that managed to open up discussion about scathing topics through the use of humor and satire. Roger and Me is one of his best documentaries, while also being his first, it managed to redefine documentaries and the involvement of the director to push along the subject matter while practicing a more surprise, gotcha style of getting the truth.
Once the site of a thriving General Motors plant, Flint went quickly to seed when GM decided to close down and move out. As Moore pokes around what has been described by one magazine as “the worst place to live in America”, he finds out how the local populace is coping with GM’s betrayal of the American Dream. Among those visited are a family who is evicted just before Christmas, and an enterprising middle-aged woman who set up a thriving business slaughtering and skinning rabbits. Never feigning objectivity, Moore contrasts the impact of the shutdown on the average Joes and Janes with the diffident reaction of Flint’s power elite. The latter’s patronizing attitude towards the unemployed multitudes is succinctly captured in the scenes in which visiting celebrities Robert Schuller, Anita Bryant, Bobby Vinton and Pat Boone exhort the citizenry to grin and bear it. Even more out of synch is “Miss Michigan” Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, who in her morale-boosting speech to the disenfranchised GM employees begs them to pull for her in the upcoming Miss America pageant! The film’s throughline is Moore’s futile effort to locate GM chairman Roger Smith, so that he can show Moore first-hand the utter devastation of Flint. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Flint, Michigan has been a personal subject for Moore in all his film, seemingly tying every subject and films he has done to the city he grew up and as is a strong force for the excellent juxtaposition between his subject matter and the localized effect. With the closing of the GM Plant, Moore gives us a full spectrum of the impact that the closing had and wants to know why. Why did they see it necessary to close a plant that employed a large portion of the population of Flint? What is the reason?
I find the journey that Moore takes to uncover the truth and get a chance to ask the question that is on everyone’s mind to be one of the better, compelling subject matter. It’s fueled with a lot of gallows humor, showing the obvious pandering from celebrities of Flint and the people bestowing all these false hopes to the people while not ever having to live there. You chuckle, feel bad that you do it, but then remember that this is the point. It’s utterly comical that society and corporations are so cavalier with the people that they employ that laying them off is just a natural, unflinching action that they do. Humor is used effectively to frame and lessen the barrier for us to connect. I don’t work in Flint, but watching documentary and chuckling when Moore goes to outlandish lengths to get rejected and stopped in his interviews, allowed me to be comfortable with the subject matter and how he conducts the documentary.
Through all the humor and satire at the current corporate climate, the city of Flint and their plight shouldn’t be forgotten. While many cities and towns have been effected by plant closings, there issue and concern is shown on the faces of those he interviews. People struggling to get by with the plant closing, workers doing their best to protest and fight the good fight and even the business that benefited from the economic boom of the plant are all hurt. You are witnessing a town slowly dissolving under the weight of one decision. One decision to close a plant has jeopardized the lively hood of those in the city and the only closure they want or need is to hear why that decision was done by Roger Smith. It’s a way to chronicle the downfall of the middle class and those that are able to do this and still live in a life of luxury. Michael Moore might be in your face and biased, but you can’t deny that he is able to make you care about a subject through the use of the documentary medium. He presents to you the people behind the cause, not so much facts, but that you see first hand how people will openly talk about and avoid the subject of the Flint, Michigan plant closing. It pulls you in further to the story and plight and in the most effective manner.Advertisement