Where to Invade Next is Michael Moore's most disturbing film yet. Contrasting the progressive public policies practiced abroad with those here at home, Moore starkly drives home just how inhumane American society has truly become.
The movie is a simple exercise in comparing and contrasting American public policies with those of other countries. It's full of Moore's inner dialogue and characteristic humor. But it's also profoundly moving because he cuts deep into the marrow of what's wrong with American society and must be changed.
Whether looking at how other nations treat their workers, expectant mothers, schoolchildren, or prisoners, Moore lays bare the heartless deficiencies in the American way of life. The surprised looks on the faces of Europeans when Moore tells them that in the United States there is no paid vacation or maternity leave reveal just how far we've fallen. A woman CEO from Iceland offers one of the most devastating critiques of American society I've ever heard.
Moore dispels the myths about how horribly the Europeans are taxed by showing: 1). They aren't taxed that much more than Americans anyway -- especially when factoring in the out-of- pocket expenses for basic services we pay; and 2). They get so much more from their governments than we do.
The loud mouths among the Republican Right will no doubt claim that Moore "cherry picked" his data or is "romanticizing" other cultures. They'll call him "anti-American" and say they're not surprised he made an "anti-American" film. But fuck them anyway. They embody the exact retrograde ideology that Moore exposes in the film: the market fundamentalism, racism, and general meanness that prevent any real progress toward enacting the kind of commonsense public policies that Moore explores in this powerful movie.
Adding a dose of irony to Moore's film is the fact that many of the progressive ideas we see implemented elsewhere can trace their origins back to the United States. From the 1970s, when women's rights and the Equal Rights Amendment were in the forefront, and the late-1980s, when the U.S. prosecuted bankers after the Savings and Loan scandal, all the way back to the original founders of the U.S. Constitution who banned cruel and unusual punishment, Moore reminds us that we've lost track of many of our best ideas only to see other nations pick them up and benefit from our example.
The movie ends on a positive note. But it's still a heartbreaking movie for any American to watch who hasn't completely lost his or her grasp of the meaning of human dignity. At a time when Hillary Clinton and countless political commentators are telling us that this country is incapable of fundamental change it's great to see Michael Moore pointing the way forward through another excellent and provocative film.
The United States has so much to learn from the way people in other countries live but is too busy straddling the globe as a military colossus to take notice. It's impossible not to feel envious of the people Moore interviews in the film whose lives contrast so starkly with our own, which makes his critique of American capitalism all the more devastating.
I left the theater feeling sad for Americans whose political leaders have so failed them, convincing so many of us (including some presidential candidates) that public policies that work so well abroad could never work here. Where To Invade Next is not only funny and entertaining but it frames the debate on the failures of American public policy in a manner that will get audiences thinking (and maybe a little angry).