I will admit that when I first started watching “Roger & Me,” I had no intention of writing a review of it. After all, it is a film I’m watching for a class in order to write an essay about it. However, maybe somewhere around the bunny murder scene, I felt there was just no way I couldn’t review it.
“Roger & Me” is the first film Michael Moore ever made. It’s also his most personal, and it might just be his best. It’s before he became extremely fixated at his own image and was focused more on actually trying to commit an act of social justice through film.
“Roger & Me” focuses on Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan. The town was once the prosperous center of America’s auto industry until General Motors CEO Roger Smith decided to shut down Flint’s plant and move all of those jobs overseas. The town soon became one of the poorest in America and suffered from problems such as homelessness, eviction, and violent crime. Moore’s main goal was to track Smith town and have him spend a day with Flint’s laid off auto workers. Of course, Smith doesn’t budge, and the film because something much more interesting: a documentary about trying to get an interview, and a look at the dangerous effects of globalization.
Michael Moore is one of the most polarizing filmmakers working today. Many have accused him of twisting reality in order to make his point in “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Some accusations are true, and others are highly politicized. The great thing about “Roger & Me” is that Moore never really takes any overt political standpoint. He is simply telling a human story from the perspective of someone who has actually been effected by the issue at hand. As someone who grew up in Flint, Moore must’ve realized he had an obligation to tell this story and tell it right. He certainly did just that.
The story of “Roger & Me” doesn’t get old thanks to Moore’s entertaining and energetic approach to such depressing subject matter. Moore’s emerging sarcastic voice is present here, as well as his pop culture prowess. Moore is always making connections and finding interesting new ways to make his enemies look ridiculous.
All joking aside, Moore crafts a vision of American poverty that’s something like a modern version of “The Grapes of Wrath.” The images of the now abandoned downtown Flint are a haunting vision of the American Dream gone wrong. Even more disturbing are scenes of a sheriff evicting people from their homes on Christmas and a woman who has to make her living off killing rabbits. Moore has no shame in showing us what she does in graphic detail.
“Roger & Me” remains startlingly relevant to this day. Two decades later, the film’s message on how globalization endangers American jobs still sticks. With Detroit’s continued problems due to the decline of car manufacturing in the city, it makes you wonder why people didn’t actually pay attention to the fall of Flint.
Had Moore gotten his interview with Roger Smith, the film would’ve been powerful, yet not as strong. It’s funny how Moore was able to get more accomplished by not completing his goal. But seriously, what could Smith had said that would’ve made GM look any better or worse? By not getting this interview, Moore made the entire company look both heartless and out of touch. With “Roger & Me,” Moore shows that the most powerful documentaries are the ones that let the subjects embarrass themselves.