There is something incredibly frustrating about watching the latest documentary by Michael Moore. It isn’t his persona or obnoxious tendencies, instead, it is the material that he puts in front of you, which seems both foreign and surreal, but also completely attainable.
As we sit there and watch Italians speak about paid time off and Finns speak about education and Icelanders speak about women’s rights, it is almost saddening to exit the theater and hit the thicket of American life because while these amenities seem so far from home — like Moore states — they are actually coming from our own DNA.
Where to Invade Next may be some of Moore’s best work to date because of how subversive the whole two hours feel. He is able to attain a very personal approach to seeking out this information, and while this film is nowhere near apolitical, it carries a universal atmosphere. The film follows Moore as he “invades” multiple countries taking ideals such as better school lunches, shorter school days, nicer prisons, and less drug laws and bringing them back for America to use.
Moore has always been a polarizing figure, but here, he seems at home. He presents the issues less as a liberal or conservative agenda and more like Americans looking to lead better lives. There doesn’t seem to be a side when talking about having more time off of work or seeking better ways of handling incarcerated people and that is where Where to Invade Next succeeds most. It isn’t apolitical, but it captures a universal feeling and shows us that the way we are living is less than what we could truly be achieving.
It works less as playing the blame game on the people who set these issues in motion (even though it does have its share of pointing fingers) and becomes more of a mirror as to what we could achieve in a more unified manner. The most poignant and pronounced moment of unity happens with Moore behind the camera and the people of Germany in front as they speak about grappling with their history and being upfront about the past that brought them to this point.
This level of maturity again seems foreign and unheard of at home, but there is something genuinely moving about watching these people move past their history and use it to create a better tomorrow. In that respect, Where to Invade Next does become a challenge, but less to the people in power, but to the people in the theater seats. Cuts to Tunisian riots and people in Iceland standing up for women’s rights shows not only that Americans should fight for what they believe they deserve, but also shows that these uprisings were bred in the Land of the Free.
Moore is most powerful when showing us the good and reminding us that we have the power to achieve all of this because it came from us first. This challenge — this reminder — strikes home deeply and attempts to awaken something inside of us to work for a better America.
The United States is not perfect, and neither is the movie, but it shows that we are working at half capacity and consistently shooting ourselves in the leg achieving “the American dream.” As the ending stinger shows, progress is being made, but now we have a better idea and template for what is out there to accomplish. The question is: will we grab the hammer and nail in hand?