CAN’T BUY ME LOVE: Reviews of Capitalism: A Love Story and (500) Days of Summer

Michael Moore, of course, doesn’t make documentaries. Not really. He makes visual editorials and op-ed pieces and because of that, many people aren’t quite sure how to feel about his films. I love them and I think Capitalism: A Love Story is one of his finest so far. What never ceases to surprise me is how emotional I get whenever I watch one of his movies and there were times when …Love Story nearly brought me to tears (and I don’t mean the one with Ali McGraw which didn’t get the old ducts working at all). Who would have thought it: Michael Moore, the new director of weepies. No matter what one might say about Moore’s one sided approach to filmmaking, you can’t say he doesn’t care. It’s very rare that an artist can combine didacticism with art. Shaw and Brecht were masters at it, while Stanley Kramer, and for me, Oliver Stone, always fell short. But Moore knows how to make both a point and a movie.

There are scenes here that can stand with the best of the outrageousness found in a Dickens’ novel. A juvenile facility run for profit in which a judge gets a cut for every teenager he sends there sounds like something out of Oliver Twist. Even worse, the life insurance policies that companies take out on their workers (sometime without the workers even knowing it) not just sounds incredibly outrageous, it sounds like something out of a remake of Double Indemnity.

The movie ends on a note of hope. At the same time, one quickly realizes that the victories Moore records, though he makes them seem commonplace and happening on a daily basis, are actually a few and far between lot. Moore may want to give us hope, but in the end, there’s actually less of it than he suggests, which makes the movie all the more moving.

(500) Days of Summer is wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Did I mention how wonderful it is? Well, if I didn’t, let me tell you, it’s wonderful. It’s everything you wish American films, especially romantic comedies, were all the time, but are usually only in European ones (instead we get films like The Proposal and He’s Just Not That Into You). The biggest mystery here is not why the romance died in this film, it’s how the movie got financed in the first place.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who has somehow snuck up on us to become one of our finest actors after leaving 3rd Rock From the Son) plays a writer of greeting cards who is that rare male in movies—someone unashamed of his emotions. He wants to fall in love. And he does. Hard. But his romance ends in one of the most devastating ways possible: the person he’s in love with says she doesn’t want to fall in love and doesn’t want to be in a relationship, but about a month after breaking up, she gets married (the old “it’s not me, it’s you” routine). The story telling is very reminiscent of Annie Hall in which the writers (Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber) and director (Mark Webb) use all sorts of quirky and fun breaks in reality to tell the story, including a musical number in a park that not just parodies Enchanted, but outdoes it. And how often will you see a movie about people in L.A. in which no one drives, but everyone takes public transportation or a cab? That alone makes this movie worthwhile.

In the end, this is a feel good movie with a downer ending. It then tacks on an extra bit of whimsy and becomes an end cute love story. I do have one quibble: what’s so bad about making a living writing greeting cards? Mr. Deeds would turn over in his grave.

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