Roger & Me (1989)
"The story of a rebel and his mike."Director Michael Moore pursues GM CEO Roger Smith to confront him about the harm he did to Flint, Michigan with his massive downsizing.
Adulterated by Moore's Self-Indulgence
I rented Roger and Me with the highest of expectations. Seeing that it was
ranked by Siskel and Ebert in the top 3 of all films during the year of
1989, I figured it must've been quite a potent and well-done documentary.
Unfortunately, it just couldn't live up to expectations, due to some
problems I have with what I saw of Michael Moore.
The scenes displaying the grandeur of Flint during Moore's childhood
contrast very effectively with the shots of Flint that show the decadence of
the city because of the massive layoff. It is almost difficult to watch, as
the viewer sees just what pathetic lengths Flint will go to to try to
elevate its position in the world and re-instore morale into its people.
Attempts to make Flint a major tourist attraction flop miserably, and soon
the city is forced to resort to exploiting a new prison's opening by
offering couples a chance to "spend a night in jail" for only $100.
Residents, meanwhile, are forced to do whatever they can to keep from
getting evicted. One woman has a sign in front of her house offering to
sell rabbits as "pets or meat", and unfortunately the actual skinning of a
rabbit is shown along with the cramped and terrible situations the rabbits
live in. The way Flint reacts to being named the "worst city in the nation"
to live in by Money magazine is notably humorous, as residents burn
magazines of the paper and use pathetic means of support to convince
themselves it certainly isn't true. A lot of humor is present in such
scenes, but it is the bittersweetness that is touching and powerful.
While truly the tragedy of the Flint situation is conveyed well through such
ways, it is tainted by Michael Moore. His views regarding the situation in
Flint can best be characterized as "sardonic". He appears to have little
compassion for the situation, and this made me speculate that he is only
making a documentary to exploit such a filmmable world he lives in. He
constantly shows the "bad guys", whether it be uptight Athletic Club
directors, elderly wealthy women, or Roger Smith itself. There is literally
no point to this, other than to make these people scapegoats for a tragic
situation. Moore even further tries to make himself seem like some sort of
moral hero in front of these people, as he asks them pompously what they
think about Flint's condition. I felt worst for Ms. Michigan. His
treatment of her was quite cruel, as it was clear she didn't really know the
depths of decadence Flint had sank to. He portrays her as being stupid and
uncaring, yet she merely is the average citizen(I doubt she lived in Flint
since she was Ms. Michigan and seemed unfamiliar with the city..if I didn't
know about the GM situation back then, how was she?) Moore's voiceovers
even further taint the documentary, as he wastes time talking about
meaningless nonsense instead of showing more scenes about the conditions the
people of Flint had to contend with. We're not allowed to think for
ourselves, even though I'm sure we'd come up with a lot of the same
While powerful and effective in showing Flint's situation, I just can't give
this my full endorsement because of Moore's apparent selfishness. I hope I
am wrong concerning my views about him, but I just didn't see any evidence
to the contrary. My apologies, sir, if I am incorrect. The film otherwise
is great, and it is stunning that Moore was able to record such telling
interviews from both sides of the Flint tragedy.
Rating: 7/10, recommended