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Where to Invade Next - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
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cinema_holic
Where to Invade Next
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Directing: B+
Writing: A-
Cinematography: B
Editing: A



There is so much amazing and stunning stuff in Where to Invade Next, I don't know where to begin, because I just can't remember it all. I do remember this: the first country director Michael Moore visits is Italy, where he talks to factory company executives who respond with genuine bafflement at how little vacation time American workers get. Happy employees make happy and productive workers, duh! These people go home for two-hour lunches.

Next? France, where they serve school children fresh, high-quality food for lunches. On actual plates. With water glasses. Made out of glass. In one of the many shocking moments of the movie, Moore has taken a can of Coca-Cola with him to the table where he's joined a group of elementary school kids. And when he tries to share the soda with them, most of them politely decline. This doesn't come across as contrived. A little staged, maybe. But these kids aren't actors. And the one little girl who accepts a taste of the Coke takes a sip, then declares it "okay." Moore shows them pictures of public school lunches in America that a crew member's teenage daughter volunteered to take -- it comparatively looks like slop on trays. It might as well be prison food.

And prison! Much later in the movie, Moore visits Norway, the country where a man shot 68 people dead on an island. He interviews the father of one of the victims, his very young son. Moore, clearly in the interest of proving a point, tries to goad the man into saying he'd like to kill the murderer. But this man reflects his society, where the maximum prison sentence for any crime is 21 years, and declares it's not his place to kill the man.

Much of the rest of the movie kind of blends together, although all of it is incredible -- these things other countries, most of them European, do to take care of their citizens. Even Germany, which makes it a point to make sure the horrors of the Holocaust are taught to kids in school and that they understand that history should not be forgotten, lest it be repeated. The one non-European country Moore visits is Tunisia, a Muslim country that made it a point to put an equal rights for women measure into its Constitution at the urging of its population.

One does wonder why Moore otherwise stuck to European nations, although by the end he comes to a sort of point about that. It might have been nice to see some great things done by countries elsewhere in the world. At least he mentions that Rwanda has more women in its parliament than men. There's a lot of representation of the fight for women's equality in this film, such as his visit to Iceland, the first country in the world that democratically elected a woman leader. They also decree by law that any company's board cannot be less than 40% or more than 60% one gender or the other. The portion on prisons pointedly illustrates how American prisons are modern slave labor, with disproportionately black populations made to manufacture products for no pay and then largely denied the right to vote even when they are released. Moore goes back to direct references to American systems sparingly, but every time he does, it's truly depressing.

So it's good that he takes such a radically different approach with Where to Invade Next -- that is, with a lighthearted tone. Having alienated his detractors for years with the heavy-handedness of earlier films, he now dispenses with the faux guerrilla tactics he used to employ. There's no awkward scene here like in Bowling for Columbine, when he tried to return bullets to the manufacturer that were still stuck inside a wheelchair-bound gun victim. On the other hand, this movie has its share of hokeyness, thanks to the narrative concept: Moore is "invading" all these countries to steal their good ideas, and bring them back to America to claim as our own. "That's how we roll," he says.

A lot of this movie is pretty funny, and always entertaining, but what stuck me most was how truly moving it was. I was brought to tears several times. And sure, as usual, this film has clear bias, but Moore is up front about it: "I like to pick the flowers and leave the weeds," he says, after acknowledging that these countries certainly have their own problems. But he's finding the government programs that work, from universal health care being cheaper in the long run because it prevents disease (duh), to his visit to Slovenia, which offers college free of tuition, even for students studying from abroad. As in, if you can't afford college in the U.S., if you can get yourself to Slovenia, you can go to college free of charge. Who knew? A couple of American students Michael Moore found there did.

There's such a clear line illustrating the difference between the us, or the U.S., and the rest of the world, and why we can't seem to progress in the same ways: individualism versus community values. It would be nice to think this movie could help change hearts and minds here at home. How many people will actually see this movie? All of us should, really. It's incredibly illuminating. It's easy to be cynical about it. But Moore smartly ends on a particular note of optimism, citing not only certain changes (like gay marriage) we've managed in the U.S. recently, but using the Berlin Wall as a symbol of seeming impossibilities that can be overcome. All it takes is the right hammer and those walls holding us back come crashing down.

Michael Moore searches for more workable ideals to steal from abroad for America in WHERE TO INVADE NEXT.


Overall: A-
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