Let's face it, we all come to Michael Moore's films with our own established preconceptions, just as Moore arrives onscreen with his rather renowned baggage. For those who loathe his methods and politics, he is, as the great film critic Pauline Kael said, a peddler in "gonzo demagoguery." For those who celebrate his zealousness and guerilla tactics, he is a prophet, calling forth repentance in the public square.
After winning the Academy Award in 2003 for Bowling for Columbine, Moore spent his time at the podium railing against President Bush and what he called a
"fictitious war." The next morning, even he seemed to know that he had gone a bit too far. He apologized for his vitriol, and admitted that he'd made a stop over on the way to the ceremony that had left him passionate and fervent to speak truth to power.
He had come from church.
Moore began preparing for Sicko almost ten years ago. Inspired by a segment in his TV show, The Awful Truth, Moore got the idea to make a film tackling the absurdities of the American healthcare system. Then came the Columbine shootings. And the Iraq War. After the dust settled from Fahrenheit 911—the highest grossing documentary in film history—Moore found himself returning to his shelved idea. After all, healthcare affects more Americans than either gun violence or terrorism.
There are no congressional ambushes or CEO confrontational stunts in Sicko. Moore seems to be channeling the great social critics of the past, like Mark Twain, stating his argument and framing his ideology clearer than ever before. Sicko is less angry and antagonistic than his former films, incorporating a surprising amount of joviality for a subject as painful as this. You can say things in comedy that you ...