I wouldn’t live in America if you paid me.
We all know the problems with Michael Moore and his movies. He’s rude, he’s didactic, he sometimes draws conclusions that just aren’t fair, he was a jerk at the Oscars, he ends up preaching to the choir, his megalomania too often overpowers his messages, and so forth. All true and valid reasons for criticism, but it doesn’t change the fact that Michael Moore has also made some of the most thought-provoking and entertaining documentaries out there and he’s done it again with Where to Invade Next.
The conceit for Where to Invade is Michael Moore ‘invading’ other countries to ‘steal’ their best ideas and bring them back to America. While Moore is, of course, the main interviewer, he actually puts himself mostly in the background, letting his subjects and the facts speak for themselves and the movie is all the better for it. Along the way we learn some interesting lessons. It Italy you can get up to eight weeks paid vacation and moreover company owners like the president of Ducati (who lets Moore interview him on the factory work floor!) don’t even begrudge it. Plus, workers get two hours paid lunch and new mothers automatically get five months maternity leave. Perhaps not coincidentally, Italians live four years longer than Americans. In France school lunches are four course gourmet meals planned ahead of time with the local mayor and a dietician. Slovenia’s free higher education system has actually attracted more than one American student to the University of Ljubljana. And Finland’s schools are considered the best in the world – but they don’t even assign homework!
It’s not just a story of how Europe offers such a better quality social welfare system. Germany is applauded not only for being union friendly, but also for coming to terms with the Holocaust while, as Moore notes, there was never a museum of American slavery until 2015. One of the more surprising and infuriating things we learn is that Tunisia, a North African, Muslim country, has free reproductive care for women (including abortion) and, in fact, included an Equal Rights Amendment in their constitution something the U.S.A still doesn’t have. Moore even interviews the former Head of the Conservative Moslem faction in Tunisia’s parliament who voluntarily stepped down, after realizing he was out of touch with the majority despite not having to do so. The guy agrees to the separation of church and state and on the topic of homosexuals declares it a private matter. In one of the more emotional points of the film when covering Norway’s much more lenient penal system, Moore interviews the father of a victim of a mass shooter who knows his son’s killer will only serve 21 years and the man’s refusal to give in to blind vengeance shocks Moore himself. Americans live in a great country, possibly the greatest there ever was, but as Where to Invade Next, makes clear we can still stand to learn from others, and remarkably the final moments of the film strike a hopeful chord for positive change.