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Roger & Me
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this documentary addresses the economic downfall of Flint, Michigan, after General Motors laid off 30,000 employees. Bad language and violence are limited, the movie does include footage of crimes and of numerous families being evicted from their homes. People frankly express their economic desperation.
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What's the story?
When Michael Moore returned to his hometown of Flint, Michigan after a brief stint working in San Francisco, he arrived just in time for the first of what proved to be a tidal wave of General Motors plant closures. Faced with the economic downfall of his community, the journalist picked up a microphone and dedicated his time to tracking down the man he held responsible – GM CEO Roger Smith. The result of Moore's work is ROGER & ME. Unsurprisingly, Smith dodges Moore's questions, but the director manages to take viewers on a colorful tour of economic failure in America. We see the local government pursue one half-baked scheme for rejuvenation after another as countless families are evicted from their homes and so many people rent moving vans that the rental companies find it literally impossible to keep vehicles in stock. Interspersed with Moore's footage are clips that relay the history of GM in Flint, including promotional slots produced by the company as well as news footage. Moore also includes some of his family history, noting that his father worked for GM for decades and his uncle participated in the famous Sit-Down-Strike that led to the formation of the United Auto Workers union.
Is it any good?
Overall, Moore's style is engaging and personable. The documentary is far from dry, and examines a significant historical moment. Young viewers may find the discussion of economics confusing and dull, but high school students should be able to follow easily. Moore clearly has a political agenda, but he makes his investment in the subject apparent within the first minutes of the film. There is no effort here to trick viewers, only to relay the events as the director sees them –- think of the film as a newspaper editorial piece.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about documentaries. Should documentaries simply tell a story, or is it OK for them to have a slant, like this one does? Is Moore fair to GM CEO Roger Smith? Should he have to be to call his film a documentary? This could lead to a wider discussion about the news and the role of journalists.
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