Roger & Me (1989)

Roger & Me

“Some people just don’t like to celebrate human tragedy while on vacation.”

I think a lot of Michael Moore’s charm has faded over the years, even among those who agree with his views. His gonzo style can be off putting, and I think this is apparent in all his movies, even the ones that don’t go as far politically as Fahrenheit 9/11. His first movie, Roger and Me, isn’t exempt either. But with just the right tone and a really neat style, I still really enjoyed this movie, and I think it was a great start for a now very controversial filmmaker.

Flint, Michigan is the focus of the film, particularly the town’s reliance on the General Motors plant for employment. Moore grew up in Flint and shares some neat memories and reflections on the town’s relationship with GM, and he chronicles the rise and fall of one of the biggest losers of big business practices. He attempts to track down the elusive GM President Roger B. Smith, inviting him to come to Flint and meet the people affected by his decisions. It’s a dark, witty, fascinating look at a town’s complete devotion a single business that seems to care nothing for the town in return.

I found it interesting how Moore personalizes the film while also keeping a comedic sort of distance. You get to see what fascinated Moore as a child growing up in a city essentially owned by General Motors, but Moore also portrays himself as a bit of an outsider: more interested in media than manufacturing. His humor is as dry and charming as it’s ever been, and he proves himself a great storyteller, weaving us through the highs and lows of this American tragedy.

I think the pushy attitude Moore brings to his movies can really make them stand out, and it can often be hard to root for him. He has a sense of entitlement when trying to get in contact with Roger Smith, and while his cause is just, there’s something not quite right about his actions. I’m all for civil disobedience and dangerous pursuit of the truth, but Moore never gives Smith a reason to actually be interviewed. He makes himself a nuisance to General Motors, storming into their buildings with a camera crew and a nonchalant attitude, instead of coming from a courteous journalistic approach that I’m not entirely convinced he pursued to completion.

I was amused, however, by Roger & Me. It also made my heart sink for Flint, Michigan, particularly due to their even grander tragedy in the recent water crisis. On the whole, though, I think Michael Moore has done a lot of great work for documentary film as a genre, and when his focus is in the right direction, he makes movies that are both informative and captivating without being a jerk about it.

Films Left to Watch: 847

About Travis

I'm a software engineer reviewing a bunch of movies.
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