What to do with Michael Moore? His very name now prompts apopleptic reactions from those on the right (predictably) but also self-righteous derision (understandably) for those who sympathize with his point of view, but despair at his methods.
Sicko, his self-styled “comedy” about the horrors of the American health care industry, is vintage Moore, with all that entails: ironic archival footage, maudlin case studies of “ordinary Americans” caught up in a corrupted system, and his trademark aggressive disingenuousness. More propagandist than documentarian, Moore is very good at what he does. As with other American myopias — gun control, the Iraq War — he connects the dots between official explanations and observed realities (however selectively chosen).
In Sicko, the villains are the huge insurance conglomerates, pharmaceutical corporations and HMOs that control access to health care with an Orwellian arbitrariness and venality that is framed in such a way to make us gasp in disbelief. The case studies he focuses on include 9/11 victims and the chronically ill, and culminates in his now infamous trip to Cuba, where our ailing protagonists are embraced by the vilified Cuban health care system. It’s a typical Moore stunt that is as emotionally charged as it is compelling. From the departure point of the tainted health care industry — which he depicts as having unprecedented power over the executive and legislative branches of government — he casts his net ever wider to a larger problem with America’s flawed approach to public policy. The film depicts its most downtrodden citizenry as hopelessly disenfranchised as compared to their counterparts in Canada (naturally) as well as France and England, destroying myths about socialized medicine with typical overkill. But as with his indictment of the gun lobby or the military industrial complex, his assembled half-truths still constitute an irrefutable larger one.