Edelstein Keen On "Sicko"

Michael Moore, "Sicko"
Weinstein Company
Sunday Morning movie critic David Edelstein says "Sicko" is a "crackerjack" movie.

I've been asked to review Michael Moore's "Sicko" without getting too, you know, political. So what's the film about?

It's about two hours.

Moore talks to people who think insurance companies unfairly denied them payment for vital medical procedures. He visits the U.K., Canada, France, and, most controversially, Cuba, where governments offer universal coverage. He thinks that's a fine thing. Others disagree.

That's all for me! See ya' next week!

No? May I say more?

Goody. I love "Sicko." It's a lively, funny, infuriating, devastating piece of propaganda intended to shame Americans into demanding — at very least — accountability from both Republican and Democratic politicians — also known in some quarters as "bought-and-paid-for tools."

That's political, but not partisan!

You're thinking, OK, enough of your politics — "How is "Sicko" as a movie?" Crackerjack. Moore mixes outrage, hopefulness and gonzo stunts brilliantly. Along the way he poses larger questions about why people take dead-end jobs — to ensure they have catastrophic medical coverage, for one thing.

"Sicko" opens with story after story of people denied payment for absurd reasons. Some are ghoulishly funny; other stories are tragic.

A clip of the 1996 congressional testimony of Linda Peeno, a former medical reviewer for the HMO Humana, makes you wonder why eleven years later nothing's changed.

Our culture reinforces the image of American medical superiority — and hey, my parents are both M.D.'s. They're great doctors and I never wanted for food, shelter or, to be honest, prescription medications.

But watching "Sicko," I thought of one of my favorite TV shows, "House," regarded as daringly frank because its doctor hero's a druggie who insults people. But does that man run tests! He and his team order scan after scan; they do exploratory neurosurgery — anything to solve some pesky medical mystery. Given the realities of managed care, that might be sheer fantasy.

Look, Michael Moore can be a blowhard. In his other movies he played fast and loose with chronology. You'll hear much in the coming days from insurance companies and so-called "free-enterprise think tanks" about the inadequacies of national health care. Fine. Bring it on.

"Sicko" has shoved the issue in our faces.

How many movies can a critic see and say, "Discuss!"?