You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


Three years after winning Cannes' top prize, Michael Moore returns to the Croisette with more polemics-as-performance-art in "Sicko," an affecting and entertaining dissection of the American health care industry.

Three years after winning Cannes’ top prize for “Fahrenheit 9/11,” docu helmer and agent provocateur Michael Moore returns to the Croisette with more polemics-as-performance-art in “Sicko,” an affecting and entertaining dissection of the American health care industry, showing how it benefits the few at the expense of the many. Pic’s tone alternates between comedy, poignancy and outrage as it compares the U.S system of care to other countries. Given Moore’s celebrity and fan base, plus heightened awareness of the pic resulting from the heated battle that’s already begun between left and right, returns look to be extremely healthy.

Pic should also play well internationally, providing an eye-opening lesson for foreigners who may be inclined (like Moore’s Canadian cousins) to take out insurance from their homeland before visiting the States.

Chief criticism of the film is that it paints too rosy a picture of the national health care of the countries he compares America to, including Canada, England, France — and Cuba.

Employing his trademark personal narration and David vs. Goliath approach, Moore enlivens what is, in essence, a depressing subject by wrapping it in irony and injecting levity wherever possible: a graph shows America’s position in global health care as No. 38 — just above Slovenia — and is followed by film footage of primitive operating conditions; and he offers a long list of health conditions that can deny a person insurance coverage, with the list scrolling into deep space accompanied by the “Stars Wars” theme.

Pic explores why American health care came to be exploited for profit in the private sector rather than being a government-paid, free-to-consumers service as are education, libraries, fire and police. Moore comes up with an archival audio recording of Richard Nixon from February 1971, praising Edgar Kaiser and his system using incentives for less medical care. The next day Nixon addresses the nation, proposing a new health care strategy that amounted to a less-per-patient expenditure to maximize profit.

Pic starts by sketching a gamut of health-care horror stories from average Americans: those who can’t afford insurance, those who are denied coverage for various, often ludicrous reasons, and those who believe themselves well-protected, but find that the moment they avail themselves of medical services their insurance provider uses obscure technical reasons to refuse coverage, retroactively deny claims and cancel insurance, or raise rates so astronomically that the patient is forced into the ranks of the nearly 50 million uninsured.

Perhaps the most emotionally affecting story comes from Julie, a hospital worker whose husband had a potentially terminal illness that the medical staff thought could be treated with a bone marrow transplant. Insurance deemed the treatment experimental and refused to cover it. Unable to afford an alternative, the husband died.

The congressional testimony of a former Humana medical director provides a devastatingly direct description of what she calls “the dirty work of managed care.” Constantly told that she was not denying care to patients, rather simply denying them Humana’s coverage, her career advanced as she saved her corporation money.

Moore appears in his shambling folksy persona about 40 minutes into the pic, interviewing foreign citizens, American expatriates, hospital workers and doctors in countries with nationalized health care. The dramatic contrast with America is played for laughs, as the seemingly incredulous Moore continually mutters, “What do you mean it’s free?”

Pic’s most dramatic (and now controversial) tactic involves Moore taking a group to Cuba that includes 9/11 rescue volunteers with medical problems that haven’t been covered by insurance. First they go to Guantanamo Bay, which Moore proclaims as the only place on American soil with universal health care, and then to a Havana hospital where they are given treatment. Cuban seg wraps with a poignant expression of emotional solidarity between 9/11 volunteers and Cuban firemen who pay them homage.

Pic incorporates extensive archival footage (some of which comes across as grainy on the bigscreen) as well as home movies and photographs. Extracts from Communist musicals, classic comedies and horror films provide Moore further opportunity for comic editorializing.


Production: A Weinstein Co. presentation of a Dog Eat Dog Films production. (International sales: The Weinstein Co., New York.) Produced by Meghan O'Hara, Michael Moore. Executive producers, Harvey Weinstein, Bob Weinstein, Kathleen Glynn. Co-producer, Anne Moore. Directed, written by Michael Moore.

Crew: Editors, Dan Swietlik, Geoffrey Richman, Chris Seward; music, Erin O'Hara; associate producer, Rehya Young; line producer, Jennifer Latham. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (noncompeting), May 19, 2007. Running time: 113 MIN.

More Film

  • Singapore Actor Aloysius Pang, 28, Dies

    Singaporean Actor Aloysius Pang, 28, Dies While on Military Service

    Singaporean actor Aloysius Pang died Wednesday of injuries sustained while on military training in New Zealand. He was 28. Pang was best known for his appearance in movies “Young & Fabulous” and “Timeless Love.” He also had a string of credits in Singapore TV series. Pang was involved in an accident last week while repairing [...]

  • Alibaba Lends $100 Million to Huayi

    Alibaba Lends $100 Million to Huayi Bros. in Film Investment Expansion

    Alibaba Pictures Group, the film business arm of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has struck a strategic cooperation deal with leading film studio Huayi Bros. The deal includes a $103 million (RMB700 million) loan to Huayi. Alibaba Pictures said the agreement was part of its recently announced strategy to be involved in major movies aimed for [...]

  • Netflix Buys Taiwan Black Comedy 'Dear

    Netflix Buys Taiwan Black Comedy 'Dear Ex'

    Netflix has added to its roster of Mandarin-language content with the acquisition of rights to Taiwanese dark comedy “Dear Ex.” The award-winning film will play out from Feb. 1. The story involves a recently bereaved widow and a gay man fighting over a dead man’s inheritance, with the woman’s teenage son caught in the middle. [...]

  • Audrey Wells

    Film News Roundup: Audrey Wells Scholarships Launched by UCLA, China's Pearl Studio

    In today’s film news roundup, Pearl Studio and UCLA start a “Say Yes!” scholarship in memory of Audrey Well; Gina Lollobrigida and Claudia Cardinale are honored; and the “General Magic” documentary gets bought. SCHOLARSHIPS UNVEILED China’s Pearl Studio has made a gift of $100,000 for endowed scholarships to the UCLA School of Theater, Film and [...]

  • Honey Boy Knock Down the House

    Sundance Hot Titles List: 13 Buzzy Films That Have Buyers Talking

    There’s a good reason that much of Hollywood braves the thin mountain air each year to make the trek to the Sundance Film Festival, and it’s not to check out the nearby ski slopes. The annual launch of the indie film gathering brings with it the possibility of discovering the next big thing in moviemaking. [...]

  • (L to R) VIGGO MORTENSEN and

    Will Oscar Nominations Give This Year's Contenders a Box Office Boost?

    With nominees like “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “A Star Is Born,” the 2018 class of movies proved the Oscars don’t need a popular films category to recognize movies that also made bank in theaters. But now that the academy has selected this year’s crop of awards hopefuls, is there any green left to squeeze [...]

  • A24 Buys Sequel to Tilda Swinton's

    Sundance: A24 Buys Sequel to Tilda Swinton's Romance-Drama 'The Souvenir'

    A24 has bought the North American rights to Tilda Swinton’s romance-drama “The Souvenir – Part 2,” closing the deal on the eve of the Sundance Film Festival. “The Souvenir” is set to make its world premiere at Sundance on Jan. 27, followed by playing in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival in February. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content