Michael Moore is convincing: Our health care system is 'Sicko'
"I always thought the health insurance companies were there to help us," claims Michael Moore early in "Sicko," his portrait of America's failing health care industry and the politics that keep it in place. It sounds a little disingenuous coming from the filmmaking activist whose skepticism of government and big business is well documented in such films as "Roger and Me" and "Fahrenheit 9/11."
But then Moore's films are less "objective" documentaries than aggressive, ironic, often mocking calls to action punctuated by his folksy narration, alternately laced with sarcasm and pleading for understanding.
For "Sicko," Moore steps away from the spotlight to allow dozens of people -- all supposedly covered by health insurance -- to tell their own stories of being abandoned in the face of catastrophe, and then contrasts them with the citizens served by the Canadian, British and French systems of nationalized health care.
He idealizes systems fraught with their own problems to be sure, but even so he makes his point simply and convincingly: health care should not be a luxury but a right for American citizens, just like primary education, police services and fire department protection.
Moore eases up from the political sideshow theatrics that make his previous films so entertaining and maddening. At least until his controversial finale, a grandstanding gesture that takes a small group of ailing 9/11 rescue volunteers to Cuba for treatment that the U.S. won't provide.
The line between documentary and political theater is blurred, to say the least, and his tactics are calculated, but Moore is a crafty showman. He makes his point boldly and still gets medical attention for these American heroes refused coverage stateside.
With less lampooning and satirical asides, "Sicko" may be less "entertaining" than Moore's previous films, but it's also more affecting and effective. Put into context by Moore, government-financed medicine is less a revolutionary concept than a modest proposal.