WHERE TO INVADE NEXT

★★★

Michael Moore’s latest film’s title is somewhat misleading, and merely the set up for the movie’s first (and limpest) gag: Don’t worry, American military, Michael Moore will do the invading of countries from now on, you can all go home. And so Moore “invades” a number of European countries (plus Tunisia) to bring back plunder to the good ol’ USA. The plunder being progressive social policies that Moore hopes could remake America.

The dumb framing device notwithstanding, this is an enlightening and very entertaining film. Though the movie is Moore’s first to shoot no footage in the USA, he uses news footage from the USA in devastating fashion to contrast how different things are back home, as he moves from country to country. A lot of the humour of the movie comes from these shocking contrasts as, Moore, for example learns about the generous vacation, break time and parental leave that Italian workers are entitled to, and then we watch the Italians shocked, disbelieving faces as he tells them how much paid vacation Americans are entitled to (zero, if you didn’t know).

We then move to France to look at school lunches (lamb skewers on couscous in France, mystery cafeteria slop in the USA), maximum security prisons in Norway, where the prison guards sing to you rather than beat the crap out of you, Germany where the Holocaust and Nazi horrors are taught and remembered throughout society, compared to how the US deals (or not) with slavery and indigenous genocide in its history, etc.

You’ll find no subtle analysis here, and of course that’s not Moore’s style, but it is overall one of his most optimistic movies. The crew even dubbed the shoot “Mike’s Happy Film” and indeed you could see that blunt-talking optimism in the TIFF post-premiere Q&A: “Look, the Germans did all this, and they were f*cking Nazis!” Let’s hope the US doesn’t need to slide that far before things begin to turn around.

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