'Where to invade next' disappoints

With the US throwing its military might around the world, film maker Michael Moore’s Where to Invade Next (WIN) asks: amid the war profiting, is there something positive his country could gain from invading the rest of the world.

What follows is a travelogue of things that could be taken other than oil. These include Italy’s “generous” leave entitlements; France’s gourmet and healthy school lunches; Finland’s well-funded school system; Slovenia’s free tertiary education system; Germany’s remembrance of its darker past; Portugal’s decriminalisation of drugs; Norway’s more lenient prison system; Tunisia’s reproductive rights; and Iceland’s jailing of bankers.

If you think that is a lot to cover in one film, it is. WIN is a mess of random feel good facts. There is a lot to enjoy in this film, but the chaos of Moore’s trip sees him simultaneously supporting working class struggle and advocating nicer capitalists, politicians and police.

One minute he is interviewing union leaders talking about struggle against the bosses and the next he is talking to friendly capitalists about the importance of happy employees to company efficiency and profits. Most of the examples of nice corporations are factories that sell boutique goods such as expensive suits, motorbikes, artistic pencils etc. that aren’t for mass consumption. Nor are they subject to a lot of competition.

Moore admits to cherry picking the good from Europe (and North Africa). But in doing so, he glorifies a variety of countries simply by comparing them to the United States. Early on in the film, he admits to this. But in surveying so many countries and so many issues, the film comes across as superficial.

This superficiality is particularly stark when compared to his past films. For example, Sicko dedicated itself to the issue of private health insurance and made the point of focusing not only on the issue of insurance, but on the rejected claims of those who already have insurance, mentioning only in passing he wasn’t focusing on the tens of millions of people living in the US without it.

In this latest film, Moore covers way too much and he doesn’t tie the issues together with any particular strategy for change. He points to the protests in Europe and Canada for affordable and free education one minute and then the next he advocates that we would live in a much nicer world if we had more women on the boards of corporations and running governments. As though Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Clinton are the way forward.

When Moore produced his first film Roger and Me in 1990, you could understand and relate to his on-screen naivety. More than a quarter of a century later, his air of “What, you mean you have paid holidays?” just feels fake and insincere, as though he hasn’t been told that by foreigners repeatedly in his previous films.

This is a film which mirrors the Bernie Sanders phenomenon, which is less an expression of something truly radical, and more an indication of just how far the US is behind the rest of the world.