ROGER & ME || 1989, USA || Documentary || Directed by – Michael Moore / Written by – Michael Moore / Produced by – Michael Moore / Cinematography – Michael Moore, Roger B. Smith, Janet Rauch, Rhonda Britton, Fred Ross, Ronald Reagan, Bob Eubanks / Edited by – Jennifer Beman, Wendey Stanzler / Running time: 90 mins.
Roger & Me kickstarted Michael Moore’s legacy as one of the most popular and influential American documentary filmmakers of all time. To get the film made, Moore mortgaged his home and used money he got out of a settlement from a suit he had filed against Mother Jones for wrongful termination of his working contract.
In light of its success, and the huge reputation Moore went on to garner, it’s easy to forget how brave Moore’s attack on one of the biggest corporations in the world was. Indeed, even after it was released and quickly became one of the most popular documentaries that had been made in a long time, there was a Citizen Kane type of backlash against it, which, for instance, prevented it from being nominated for an Academy Award that year, and even had General Motors threaten to withdraw adventisement from any show that would interview the filmmaker.
As the title, Roger & Me, implies, the film is very much driven by a personal tone. It begins with Moore introducing himself, and then even telling the story of his own father. He was among the many workers who were laid off when GM decided to close down many of the auto plants in the area of Flint, Michigan, essentially pulling the plug on its main source of income.
Throughout the film, Moore attempts a direct confrontation with the CEO of GM, Roger Smith, despite such a confrontation being highly unlikely. In the process of telling this particular story, and investigating on the impact it had on the economy of the region, the documentary is also defined by a wider concept in its investigation of the economic policies and social attitudes of the United States during the Reagan era.
Roger & Me is also defined by its poignant, biting, satirical sense of humour. Moore sure takes some creative cheap shots, in a style that became his trademark. However, satire is used as a form of attack, and can sometimes add, even unexpectedly, a hint of a shocking reveal in the truths, facts and figures that it presents. The approach is successful in simplifying a difficult and delicate topic for a wider audience, and it doesn’t hurt that it makes it quite entertaining in the process. – 5/5