Movie Review: Sicko

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
Michael Moore is back with the long-anticipated "Sicko," an inspiring appeal to revamp the inhumane, profit-based American healthcare system. Once again, Moore demonstrates his flare for drama and passion, if not hyperbole. He makes his case effectively, and keeps you thinking. Throughout the film the audience laughs at Moore's signature irony, and cries at the desperately sad tragedies caused by the U.S. healthcare system. By the end of the film I found myself yearning to live in France, one of the countries that supports its citizens with the care needed during illnesses.

In this country, we see what life is like for those who have no insurance, but the focus is primarily on Americans who dutifully pay their premiums, but are denied benefits when they are in the middle of a health crisis. We see examples of socialized medicine from Canada, Great Britain, and France in which citizens have peace of mind that they will receive free health care in health and in sickness. Although I have the sneaking suspicion that we saw the most idyllic versions of socialized medicine, the vignettes are evocative, and make Moore's case.

Moore's subject interviews are the heart of the film. He spent 148 days filming (compared to 62 for "Fahrenheit 911), interviewing 130 potential subjects. The taut editing features interviews that are pithy and spot on, not lingering any longer than needed to get the compelling points across.

There is the heartbreaking case of a couple who, after successfully rearing six children, had to sell their home because of financial devastation after the husband suffered heart attacks. One of the most powerful interviews is with a health insurance company gatekeeper. Sobbing and shaken, she said that her job was to find ways to deny benefits. She said she acted cold and distant with clients because she wanted to avoid getting to know them, since she knew she would have to turn them down.

Member of Parliament, Tony Benn, explains that the United Kingdom was able to effectively repair its health care institution after it was devastated by WWII, and at a low point. It sustains democracy by the idea that the government fears its people rather than the people fearing its government. This statement was the crescendo of the film for me. Americans have given the power over to our politicos who are controlled by lobbyists. Moore comments that our political leaders warn against socialized programs, but that we already have socialized programs: fire departments, police, libraries, public schools, and post offices.

The uber-courageous Moore has achieved a spirited and heartfelt treatise on one of the most important problems in our society. Once again he has demonstrated his talent for high drama and humor and inserting himself - as an effective entre into a complex and serious subject. This is Moore's least controversial film to date, unless you are a health care lobbyist or in the health insurance business. I know right-wingers who refuse to watch Michael Moore's films, because they believe that criticizing our government institutions is blaspheme. But, unlike his past films, "Sicko" will cross lines and appeal to Americans of all stripes; that is, if they will watch it.

For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield. Air date: June 27, 2007
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Directed by Michael Moore