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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 pointed documentary isn't meant for younger children -- not that they're likely to be interested in subject material like medical insurance companies, drug company lobbying, and government legislation regarding medical treatment anyway. That said, Moore makes the sometimes-difficult material understandable and frequently entertaining. Expect some very sad stories of things and people lost -- loved ones, property, and even hope -- as well as brief, potentially upsetting images (bloody injuries, a mentally troubled patient being turned out onto the street, etc). Language includes one pointed use of "bitch," by a tearful woman remembering her work as an insurance agent, and a written "f--k you" glimpsed on a Web site.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Using mostly anecdotal evidence, the film shows how U.S. health insurance and drug companies make profits, owing to helpful legislation dating back to the Nixon years. The film takes aim at any number of legislative and executive figures who collude with the industry to maintain the status quo, while interviews with victims -- as well as former insurance company agents -- make the case that the system is broken and premised on fear, frustration, and greed. The film also presents alternative systems -- Cuban, Canadian, British, and French -- that offer "free" care and, according to the movie, unfailingly friendly caregivers. "It all began with democracy," beams former British Parliament member Tony Benn, which "gave the poor the vote" and "moved the power from the wallet to the ballot." A woman living in France observes that "The government is afraid of the people, they're afraid of protests ... whereas in the States, people are afraid of the government." Though Moore doesn't interview anyone who complains about the taxes that support socialized medicine, he does point out that the U.S. manages socialized schools, postal services, and fire departments.
Is it any good?
Like Michael Moore's previous documentaries, Sicko mounts a righteously angry, sentimental, blow-hardy, often-effective argument.
Apparently, the most effective strategy against the targeted companies is exposure. To prove that point, the film recounts the story of a man who was denied coverage for his daughter's treatment. He wrote Cigna ("without my permission," notes Moore), announcing that Michael Moore was making a movie about health care. Almost immediately, the company called to reverse the denial. If a movie that hadn't even been made yet had such effect, maybe now that it's out, Sicko will inspire other changes for the better.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Michael Moore's filmmaking style. He makes documentaries, but they're not always purely objective -- he sometimes presents information in a way that better makes his point. Is that OK? How does that affect the way you view his films? Do you have to agree with his views to enjoy his movies? How does he make viewers feel included in his journey in this movie? Does that make the topic more accessible, in spite of the complicated issues?
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