Roger & Me
A documentary about the closure of General Motors' plant at Flint, Michigan, which resulted in the loss of 30,000 jobs. Details the attempts of filmmaker Michael Moore to get an interview with GM CEO Roger Smith.
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★★★½ review by Alice Stoehr on Letterboxd
I've lived in southeastern Michigan for the past year, which definitely added some weight to my experience with this movie. A widening area around Detroit is still experiencing the economic desolation that Moore chronicles here, as well as the generalized pity and sometimes contempt that accompany it. Decades old though the footage may be, it remains woefully salient. Candid interviews juxtapose laid-off auto workers with Flint's clueless elite, who themselves satirize the wealth gap better than most fiction. Thoroughly, systematically, Moore traces the fallout of the factory closings: from new jobs for the unemployed (Amway, Taco Bell) to the nonstop evictions (in which you can see how heavily Flint's poverty is inflected by racism) to city officials' short-sighted attempts to mold Flint into a hot tourist destination.
These segments are incisive, tightly edited, and loaded with gallows humor. Piece by piece, they develop Moore's argument that this suffering is GM's fault even if the corporation stays totally unaccountable. Visiting luminaries like Pat Boone and Anita Bryant may peddle grab-your-bootstraps bullshit to the Flint community, but the evidence knows better. I'm frustrated, though, by the movie's frequent forays into what we now know as "Michael Moore's style of filmmaking." At its most innocuous, this manifests itself in blunt crosscutting or musical cues that are just a little too on-the-nose. But at its worst, this is Moore making himself the center of attention.
I appreciate the need for a hook to focus this enormous narrative, but the hunt for Roger Smith is such a transparent gimmick. Of course Smith was never going to visit Flint with him. Moore must've known that from the start, yet he persists in fashioning himself as this faux-PI throughout the film, pestering security guards and desk clerks who have about as much to do with unemployment in Flint as Moore does. Maybe these cringe-inducing stunts make Moore feel like a real investigative journalist, but they nonetheless make for some pretty shitty filmmaking. Similarly, Moore's disingenuous behavior toward the rabbit butcher grated me, especially when he's supposed to be in this woman's corner.
It's just a pity that Moore's nascent career had to follow the egocentric path suggested by these scenes, because the rest of Roger & Me is angry, poignant, and well-constructed. A tracking shot (scored with "Wouldn't It Be Nice") past block after block of boarded windows and crumbling façades suggests perhaps Jim Jarmusch shooting agitprop. It's actual, active filmmaking, which can be distressingly rare in activist documentaries, especially when blended this effectively with archival material. (Hell, just contrast this with the equally impassioned but formally negligible An Inconvenient Truth.) Poorly disposed as I may be toward Moore's antics, his debut bears glimmers of greatness.
★★★★★ review by Jak-Luke Sharp on Letterboxd
Warner Bros. DVD
"This film cannot be shown within the city of Flint... All the movie theaters have closed"
Moore considers this to be a massive failure because the documentary itself fails to "stimulate any interest in development or investment to the town of Flint" however I think Moore is incorrect about his documentary. Twenty years later and numerous visits back to Flint, it's all the more terrifying and horrifying that Moore showed the chaos and the smoke before the fire, yet nothing has changed. No re-development has occurred and in the reign of the supreme overlord Trump who promised he would make places such as Flint and Detroit prosper once again, it makes Moore’s documentary all the more important, poignant and powerful.
★★★★ review by Timcop on Letterboxd
Despite some bad-faith and shameless stunting of his more recent career, Michael Moore's ROGER & ME is pretty undeniable as a document of big corporate greed and the unbridled optimistic capitalism of the Reagan era. From his way of catching people sticking their own foot in their mouths as they speak, to his unannounced bum-rushing of the various hideaways of the rich and powerful, you can practically see the wheels in motion that would lead to today's confrontational humorists on THE DAILY SHOW and THE COLBERT REPORT.
So anti-Reagan it would make a great double feature with COCKTAIL.
★★★★★ review by Ethan Rosenberg on Letterboxd
"This film cannot be shown within the city of Flint.
All the movie theaters have closed."
It got worse.
★★★★★ review by Varghese Eapen on Letterboxd
Dogs are better than us human beings on every conceivable level. They remain loyal and never stop loving us no matter what color,caste,religion or creed we belong to. After seeing this film, I realized we are indeed the lowest forms of organisms ever to walk the earth. Michael Moore's debut is a masterfully executed experience which shows to what levels we sink to even though we know how our own kind are suffering. It's also hilarious,I just wondered "is this for real?". If I ever had a chance I would have castrated the late Roger Smith and taken him on a donkey ride across Flint,Michigan.
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