Not What the Doctor Ordered

Michael Moore picks off an easy, important target

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Movie Guru

by Anders Wright

Why does Michael Moore hate America so? He's taken us to task over corporate malfeasance, gun violence, even 9/11, and now the hefty lefty coughs up Sicko , pointing his corpulent criticism at our high-priced healthcare system. Now, listen, the American healthcare industry is our American healthcare industry, and it deserves our respect as long as it's American. Who the hell does Michael Moore think he is? What does he want, free healthcare for all? What, does he think this is Canada? Or Britain? Or France? Or even, say, Cuba?

Seriously, though, Sicko might be Moore's most important film yet, because unlike our healthcare system, its gripes are mostly universal. Though he's been informing and inspiring since 1989's Roger & Me , Moore has primarily preached to the liberal choir for some time now. See, the thing about Moore is that even if you disagree with him, even if you think he's a liar or a manipulator of facts, it's hard not to see that he usually has a valid point, in big-picture terms. You might be a member of the NRA, but it's hard not to see that there is too much gun violence in America. You might be a hardcore Bushie, but it's hard not to see that the legacy of 9/11 is a failed war in Iraq. And whether you're uninsured, insured, a doctor, a cast member on Scrubs or the CEO of a major insurance company, it's impossible not to see that the American healthcare system is incredibly, inarguably, irrevocably, unbelievably, completely and utterly f**ked.

So it will be truly too bad if that segment of the population that has written Moore off doesn't see Sicko , because our healthcare industry desperately needs a heart transplant, and this film is powerful enough to open eyes that have long been swollen shut.

Moore has honed his filmmaking formula to a fine edgeâ"using tragic real-life stories to illustrate larger points and blending them with humorous interviews that are designed to use irony to drive home the same theses. In Sicko , it's the uninsured guy who accidentally cut off two of his fingers and had to choose which one to have sewn back on, and the former insurance-company worker who breaks down when she describes how she had to deny a couple coverage, and the former insurance medical director who testified before Congress about denying claims, and the poor woman whose husband was denied a bone marrow transplant by the very people she worked with. It's heartbreaking to hear these stories, and Moore lines up their experiences against the healthcare systems in Canada, England and France, all of which have socialized their industries and whose residents find it comical when he asks them how much they had to pay to get access to a doctor.

His coup de grace happens in Cuba, where he takes several 9/11 rescue workers who are suffering from terrible symptoms yet have been forsaken by their insurance companies and the government. Always the showman, Moore swings by Guantanamo Bay first, but the red carpet remains unrolled, and the party ends up in Havana, where the hospital scenesâ"well, they feel a little forced. But the patients, who are finally being listened to and respected and treated, are so emotional that Moore's point is made for himâ"all these people need and deserve is some decent healthcare.

Much of Moore's evidence here is anecdotal, especially when he showcases the systems of other countries. Interviewing one British doctor or one upper-middle-class French family does not give a full picture of all British doctors or French families. And even though all those Europeans look happy, let's face it: Going to the hospital sucks, though it certainly sucks less when you don't have to pick up the tab.

It's questionable whether Moore's solutionâ"socialized healthcareâ"would work in America, since we're an obstinate bunch when it comes to socializing anything or taking care of our less-fortunate citizens. But something has to give. Moore is correct when he says the for-profit healthcare industry does not, at its heart, have the best interest of the patient in mind. Profit-minded corporations exist to make money for their shareholders and to enrich their CEOs, and even if they say they're denying payment rather than treatment, someone's health is compromised for a few dollars more.

Look, it doesn't really matter if you like Michael Moore or not. You might think he's a bully; you might think he plays fast and loose with the facts. You might think he's the standard bearer for the progressive left, or you might think he's a mensch for ponying up money to pay for treatment for the wife of his online nemesis, and then think he's a jerk for describing it in detail in his movie. Go ahead, love him, hate him, disagree with his proposed solutions. But do take note that our healthcare system is badly injured, and sadly, at this time, Sicko is the closest thing we've got to a band-aid.

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Shades of Grey

Speaking of folks who need health insurance, did you see that episode of Grey's Anatomy where the mountain climber comes in with an ax lodged in his skull? No? Well, what about the one where there's a subway accident and two folks are impaled on the same poleâ"sucks for whoever had to call BlueCross BlueShield and break the news about that one.

Wait, you haven't seen that one either? Aw, man. Sounds like someone needs to make like an ambulance and rush to his or her nearest Blockbuster to stock up on Grey's Anatomy: The Complete First Season and Grey's Anatomy: The Complete Second Season . Maybe Grey's , the ludicrously popular ABC primetime television medical drama, isn't as educational or socially conscious as Sicko , but hey, it's hard to argue against the facts: Dr. Derek Sheppard (McDreamy) is way hotter than Michael Moore. Besides which, who has time to contemplate the woes of our healthcare system when there are so many other complicated plots to keep up with, such as who's trying to get into whose scrubs this week, and who's going to find out?

Even if you know already, there are other reasons to check out the DVDs, like: commentary by creator Shonda Rhimes and director Peter Horton, exclusive unaired scenes, cuts from the pilot episode, behind-the-scenes footage, an avant-garde trailer, and cast and creator audio commentaries. Oh, and let's not forget subtitles.

If you want to cash in on Grey's Anatomy , now's probably the time. The Third Season will be released on Sept. 11, but the consensus is it's not really worth your milk money, as the writers ran out of plotlines at the end of Season Two. And don't expect Season Four to get any better: Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) has since been transferred to a Grey's spin-off, Private Practice , which looks lukewarm at best; Dr. Burke (Isaiah Washington) has since been fired for gay-bashing; and everyone's already slept with everyone, so what's there left to work with? Not much.

On second thought, maybe you should just go see Sicko . â" Leslie Wylie

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All content © 2007 Metropulse .

© 2007 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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