Roger & Me
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A documentary about the mass job layoffs and GM plant shutdowns in filmmaker Michael Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan, and its far-reaching effects on the community's spirit, crime rate and morale. Moore essentially attempts to get an interview with GM CEO Roger Smith throughout the entire film, but at the same time, details the shutdowns' peripheral effects on everyone involved.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Nobody has ever accused filmmaker Michael Moore of being withdrawn or entirely objective, and that's not how he sees himself either. Moore, the man behind the Oscar-winning documentary BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, likes to deal bluntly with issues, confront people and their issues head-on and present the facts which he believes make his points stronger. That's not to say that he lies, in fact, he definitely does not, but he is surely not the most well-rounded documentarian either, and will concentrate more on making his point...than making sure that the entire subject matter is covered from all angles. I say all that because you might be expecting more objectivity from a documentary, so this experience might be frustrating for you. For myself, I find his approach refreshing and despite not to be taken as seriously as a more well-rounded look at such issues, it is certainly eye-opening enough to make me emphasize with his point of view, on top of educating, entertaining and enlightening for an hour and a half.
What's saddest of all in watching such a documentary is in witnessing the actual damage and devastation that plant closings and job layoffs can have on one community. You watch the news every night and read about such things in the paper, but as Moore points out here, it's more than just "numbers" and "business as usual". Many major American multinationals tend to forget that they also owe some goodwill to the community in which they established their plants in the first place (and to their country, for that matter), since that is also what America is all about (helping thy neighbor, etc...) This isn't the first time that I watched this documentary, but it was the first time that I noticed some of Moore's tactics a little more obviously, like how he would finish on a quote from someone "bad" saying something provocative ("There's nothing wrong with Flint nowadays...") and then focus immediately on a contradictory fact in the next reel (in this case, he would show a building being torn down in Flint, or folks getting arrested because they couldn't find new jobs).
Again, this might turn people off because it becomes very obvious after a while, but I tended to focus more on the fact that...well, the man is telling the truth, isn't he? These really are many of the after-effects of company's moving their operations overseas, etc..., and being as the CEO in this film's title wasn't willing to speak one-on-one with Moore about the problem, he just seemed to make matters worse by seemingly ignoring such issues (Dude...just talk to the guy and stand behind your decision...the buck stops with you!) This film also includes one of the most disgusting scenes in any film (at least, for me) and that is the sight of this backwards woman clubbing a cute bunny to death, and then skinning it on-screen (Moore explains why he left this in the film on the commentary track-- to show what some people had to resort to). This scene shows up abruptly, so if you're not into animal cruelty, stay away!! (I actually remember there being another scene featuring a snake eating a rabbit as well, but it wasn't on the version shown on this dvd).
In the end, I think it's filmmakers like Moore and films like ROGER & ME that do make changes happen in the world, and I would advise anyone with any sort of conscience whatsoever to take a look at this film, and not feel like kicking some ass afterwards. Companies owe it to their workforce and local communities to consider the effects that their "bottom line" decisions will have on their lives, the lives of their families and ultimately...yes, the country as a whole. Living in a bubble (like some people in this movie) isn't the way to go. Roger...talk to the man, you bitch!
Surprisingly...very little. Considering how much they managed to squeeze into the Special Edition of BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, you'd have thought they would do something special for Moore's original shit-disturber as well, but all we get here is the film's trailer, as well as a commentary track by Moore himself. The track itself is also pretty weak considering the firestorm of a topic which the film covers, and includes several patches of Moore quiet, watching the movie with us. Dude, I can watch the movie WITHOUT the commentary track if I wanted to watch it without your comments...this is your time...comment, speak up, discuss! Moore does toss a few tidbits about himself and the making of the film out there though (he was broke when he started making this movie, and did it for no other reason but to help his hometown get back into shape-- he says that despite all the film's accolades, he still feels like it was a "personal failure" for himself, since the town is in even worse shape than ever now). Did anyone think that the viewer of this documentary might want to know more about what has happened in Flint since this documentary was made?? A 10-minute featurette to catch us up with all of its main players would have been the way to go here, or better yet...how about including that 30-minute follow-up documentary that Moore apparently did 3-4 years after ROGER & ME (he mentions this in the commentary, but it's not on the disc) Somewhat disappointing.
If you enjoyed any of Michael Moore's books, TV shows or documentaries (especially BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE), there's no doubt in my mind that you will, at the very least, be interested in watching this documentary as well. It's deep, informative, funny and it features just enough real meat to get you passionate about whatever pumps your blood. The DVD itself is sparse at best, and unless you want to keep watching this thing every week, not recommendable as a "buy". Hopefully, a Special Edition of the film will come out one day, so you should just wait for that.