Where to Invade Next
To understand firsthand what the United States of America can learn from other nations, Michael Moore playfully “invades” some to see what they have to offer.
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★★★★ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd
TIFF2015 – Film #2
Reason for pick: Michael Moore
Michael Moore’s secret project, known only to him and his crew, and referred to by the crew as ‘Michael’s Happy Film’, was unleashed on the world for the first time tonight, safely away from his home country. In some ways the film is a departure from previous Moore ‘docs’, but in other ways it’s another heaping helping of what’s come before. I you like, and are entertained by Moore films, you’re sure to be so with this. If you hate the man, his style, and his propensity to be fast and loose with the facts, then there’s a tiny chance you might just hate this one a little less. I find myself in the former camp, and was completely entertained, as was the premier TIFF audience.
The primary difference here is instead of Moore doggedly hunting down and verbally attacking his perceived Evil Doers on U.S. soil, he takes a new tack that he’s going to become America’s new Secret Weapon. Instead of the expensive, failed, military missions intended to secure America’s interests, he would take over as a much more economical and strategic single-man invasion force; invading countries around the world, and stealing valuable ideas to bring back to the U.S.A.
Moore is a showman, and there’s no denying that. As he stealthily sneaks past ever European boarder, the TIFF crowd was kept in stitches, with laugh-out-loud moments coming quickly and easily. As per his style, the laughter is mixed with doses of poignancy that teetered on the edge of overdramatic, but never crossed the line.
Watching and listening to Moore on stage live during the Q & A was a special treat. He’s such a big cherub baby, filled with boundless energy and wit. When asked if he was in a more optimistic state of mind now, as the film is so exuberant, he countered that he was at his lowest point in optimism, and he made the film, in part, to inspire him.
He certainly wants to entertain, and he does that in spades, and he says that desire is mixed with his hope his films inspire social activism … especially, as he said on stage, that he’s tired of being the poster boy drawing all the fire on right wing media. Without being asked, he offered that he’d write the critics headline for them ( there is a segment in the film praising Italy’s social practices ) ‘Italy’s in the crapper just behind Greece … or why didn’t you invade Greece’. He opined that he knew he would get that reaction while making the film, and that he wanted to bring back things that would inspire rather than depress .. ‘I’d rather pick the flowers than the weeds’.
★★★★ review by Hollie Horror on Letterboxd
Underneath my howling laughter was an overwhelming need to cry and once the tears escaped, they didn't stop. Where to Invade Next is another must-watch Michael Moore documentary.
★★★½ review by Graham Williamson on Letterboxd
When Michael Moore came to Britain to promote his Channel 4 series The Awful Truth, Chris Morris couldn't resist a bit of alpha-prankster brinksmanship, conducting a spoof interview where he praised Moore's gift for "shouting at buildings". It's a reputation that Moore seems to be over, if his latest film is any indication. Made under the working title Mike's Happy Film, Where to Invade Next features Moore going on a mock-imperialist tour around the world, cherry-picking policies that he thinks should be implemented in America. During a piece on Italy's labour laws, he notes that this is the first time a CEO's actually met him on the factory floor; later on, he cheerfully admits that he's become a "crazy optimist".
What could have made him this way? Eight years of a Democratic president would be the obvious answer, though none of his Clinton-era material was ever this sunny in its disposition. (Despite a late segment on Iceland's pioneering female leaders, the question of how he's feeling about the prospect of another Clinton getting the Presidency goes unaddressed) He seems more energised by the discussions among the grass roots of America's left than their leaders, most notably in a segment on the prison-industrial complex that frames it explicitly as a racial, rather than class, injustice. By contrast, Obama is heard affirming that he won't hesitate to use the military against America's enemies - a soundbite which is played, brutally, brilliantly, over footage of police using military vehicles and gas against protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.
But hang on, we're getting bogged down in the bad stuff. Where to Invade Next is comfortably the funniest example of Moore's work since TV Nation. Some of this is down to his interview subjects - I particularly loved the French schoolchildren who react with utter horror at his photos of American school meals - but a lot of it's down to Moore. He's on sharp-witted form, asking if Slovenia decided to remove the "W" from its alphabet during the Bush years, and introducing each country with a tongue-in-cheek factbook designed to set up the ugly-American attitude towards these nations before overturning them with a closer look. (It's not the most sophisticated gag, but I couldn't help laughing at Germany being introduced with "Fun facts: none")
The obvious rejoinder to Where to Invade Next is that he's looking at the good of these countries without considering their flaws, though given his stated mission is to isolate usable policies rather than alternative social orders that didn't bother me. It would be viable to ask how carefully he has checked that all those smiling Italian CEOs, Portuguese policemen and Tunisian politicians are as good as they say they are, though he does get in ahead of the usual whinge that treating workers like human beings will simply cost too much. (In Britain, this is often used to justify reduction of the welfare state, a social program born directly after World War II when Britain was knee-deep in money, if by "money" you mean "rubble") This segment also contains the simplest and best idea in the whole movie; French paycheques contain an itemised list of where the money deducted for tax is actually going to be spent. If America did the same thing, Moore wonders, would people become less comfortable with nearly 60% of their taxes going to the Pentagon?
It's got some more serious problems, though. After dealing surprisingly well with the legacy of the Holocaust the final reel veers off into the kind of schmaltz that's always been Moore's weakness, with an overlong montage of Icelandic women designed to show that yup, there are women in Iceland, and a very misjudged Wizard of Oz reference. Promoting Fahrenheit 9/11 Moore compared the Bush administration to the Wizard, and said his film was intended to pull back the curtain. Here, he's saying decriminalising drugs and creating rehabilitation-focused prisons will be as easy as clicking your heels and wishing you were back in Kansas, which makes the social changes he's arguing for seem less realistic than they did when you were hearing politicians and professionals explain how they worked.
That said, there have been plenty of people on the left and on the right looking to imitate Moore's populist-pamphleteer style since Fahrenheit 9/11, and all of them have had the effect of making me value Moore more. None of his imitators have the skill to make these grand overviews of American and global politics flow like an actual movie, let alone making them as entertaining and persuasive. Even in its rougher stretches, Where to Invade Next is a reminder of what a confident and talented film-maker he is. You may wish for a more in-depth look at the policies he addresses; I'd certainly watch a documentary solely about Norwegian prisons after this. But that film might not have an archive video of guards at a maximum-security Norwegian prison singing 'We Are the World', so it's give and take, isn't it?
★★★½ review by matthew on Letterboxd
When they write a new history of rhetoric, they'll point to Michael Moore's rabble-rousing as perhaps the finest rhetoric since Cicero. As a filmmaker, Moore instrumentalizes every single cinematic trick in the bag to make his points, forcibly or subtly. He's not above sincere poignancy as a way to make his points and this film sure traffics in that. His editing is always on point; probably only Edgar Wright understands better how editing can refine, or even structure, a joke.
★★★★ review by Ryster on Letterboxd
Here's the thing with Where to Invade Next, it's the first Michael Moore film I've seen. I heard the stories about him and his works and how they can be quite controversial and I've always wanted to see some of his previous feature documentaries, especially since they're critically acclaimed, but I've just never gotten round to them. It was just by luck that his new film made its way to cinemas in my town (out of 4 only 1 cinema is showing it and in very limited release). Not only did I get to see Where to Invade Next but I also saw a Q&A with Michael Moore that was beamed to the cinema. The Q&A turned out to be nothing special but it was a very good extra to a very enjoyable and at times unbelievable documentary. I can't understand how I hadn't either seen or heard about half of the things that Moore uncovers here. I was laughing from sheer disbelief with what Moore finds in places like France, Italy and Norway. It's also a plus that I found Michael Moore's delivery and interviewing skills to be incredibly funny.
For years Michael Moore has delved into the bad things about America and showed a side of the country that many people hadn't seen before. Now though he wants to help his beloved country by invading other countries and stealing their incredible ideas in order to make America the best country in the world.
Michael Moore has an incredibly funny and likeable personality. He managed to carry the film throughout it's entirety by being genuinely interesting and feeling like he honestly wanted to get answers. This isn't a documentary in which there's a few facts here and a few facts there. There's a lot of deeper meanings and ideas that Moore wants audiences to take away with them. He's done his homework on these places and it shows as I found everything to be investigated thoroughly and I left feeling educated. I'm not going to go over what Moore finds out during his invasions (because some of them are so unbelievable that going in knowing absolutely nothing is the best way to watch it) but subjects include schools, holidays, prison and the price of college. The film does feel a lot longer than its actually on for. It's a pretty lengthy documentary at 2 hours but there's just so much information that it feels like 2 and a half at least. There is a light hearted feel to most of this movie as Moore's focus is solely on good ideas and how to help America. However, there are a few scenes which people will find dark, disturbing and shocking and they come in the form of news footage or security footage from America. These scenes are spliced incredibly into the film and adds depth to Moore's opinions and feelings. The message that the film ends on is really thought-provoking and shouldn't just be taken by Americans but by every single person. Where to Invade Next was a very interesting and funny time at the cinema. Constant information that shocked me left me intrigued throughout the runtime and I wasn't bothered by how long the film feels. Michael Moore does a good job in giving audiences the information along with commentary that made me chuckle and laugh.
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