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This Time, It’s Personal

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Say what you will about Michael Moore, he’s a riotously successful left-wing carnival barker in a culture that mostly rewards right-wing carnival barkers. His new circus, Capitalism: A Love Story, is the film he has been building to for two decades: sprawling and scattershot, yet with a cumulative force. Moore’s other films focused on symptoms. This one tackles the disease.

Let’s start with his conclusion: “Capitalism is an evil, and you cannot regulate evil”—a jaw-dropper given the sorry history of other economic systems. But Moore certainly clinches the case against people who say capitalism and democracy are sibling-close. Jefferson and Adams didn’t think so. Nor did Jesus, whom Moore redubs in an old Bible picture turning away a cripple because of a “pre-existing condition.” Moore relates a half-century of fraud in singsong narration that makes him seem like Mister Rogers with 200 extra pounds and a Che Guevara T-shirt instead of a cardigan. But what a figure he cuts. In the final sequence, he pretends to try to make citizens’ arrests on Wall Street. On one level: groan. On another: No one else seems about to make those arrests. The only thing that would scare Wall Street straight is the image of Michael Moore as the new sheriff in town.

Like some of her acting, Drew Barrymore’s directing debut Whip It is a mite too adorably ingratiating, especially for a story of a 17-year-old (Ellen Page) groomed for pageant life who gravitates to snarling girl punks and roller derby. But Barrymore hovers over her actresses like the nicest, most nurturing den mother imaginable, and on its own, Go For It formula terms the movie delivers. Page is softer than in Hard Candy and Juno. Without Diablo Cody comebacks, she’s even more marvelous.

A Serious Man
Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen.
Focus Features. R.

Capitalism: A Love Story
Directed by Michael Moore.
Overture Films. R.

Whip It
Directed by Drew Barrymore.
Fox Searchlight Pictures. PG-13.

E-mail: filmcritic@newyorkmag.com.


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