ROGER & ME

R, 91 min, 1989

Director: Michael Moore
Writer: Michael Moore
Stars: Michael Moore, James Blanchard, James Bond

Michael Moore’s Roger & Me began as a documentary portrait of his hometown, before turning into a polemical, clever, provocative, ultimately angering expose of a local human tragedy.

In 1988 in Flint, Michigan, the General Motors car company had a massive downsizing, eliminating 30,000 jobs and causing the unemployment of many low-wage factory workers. The results were poverty, spontaneous eviction due to non-payment of rent, an uprising in crime and, for those who could, an exodus to other parts of the country to look for new jobs.

All the while, GM CEO Roger Smith refused to visit Flint to see what his company hath wrought, and Moore’s persistent attempts at an appointment for an interview are continuously rebuked. Many local celebrities (including Pat Boone, Anita Bryant and Bob Eubanks) seemed unaware of the utter decimation to the community.

Michael Moore, who wrote, directed, produced and narrates, is the star of the show here, with his sometimes satirical, often poignant, guerilla-style of “ambush” documentary filmmaking. Moore pursues the truth with dogged determination, meeting a seemingly endless parade of victims of the factory shutdown, happening upon new businesses (like a creepy woman who skins rabbits for meat to sell), and even following a sheriff’s deputy whose job it is to enforce the eviction of people for non-payment of rent (some of the stories are suspect, some of the images heartwrenching). The results will make you laugh, make you cringe, make you think, and make you mad. This is one of the year’s best films.

Note: Bob Eubanks, the host of TV’s The Newlywed Game, in a candid moment, provides one of the most offensive jokes I’ve ever heard.

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