I’m not sure if a movie is the ideal format to try and educate people about the various tumors that are growing on America’s economy. I say that in part because it’s hard to balance being informative and being entertaining without devolving into vapid infotainment, but I also say that because I think movies are a bit too wide of a net for such a specific purpose. USA Today and the Economist both cover economic stories, but they do so with very different tones because they have very different readerships. Unfortunately, a film doesn’t have the luxury of knowing what it’s audience will be when it comes out, and that often leads documentaries to dumb things down because they have to assume that their audience is coming in completely uninformed whether or not they actually are.
Like a lot of people in my generation I want to understand the circumstances that have shaped the job market that has shaped my life, so a movie like this has an appeal to me. However, this specific movie was pretty frustrating because it didn’t provide any information I didn’t already know because it was pitched too broadly. It would start to get somewhere and then you could kind of feel the filmmakers getting worried that the audience would go bored so they would pull back to a human interest story. I can understand why they would profile individual people that have been affected by income inequality (although there is a forest vs. the trees argument to be had any time a movie picks three or four people at random to illustrate what’s happening to three hundred million of us). The parts that I didn’t really understand where the ones about former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s life. The film would show Reich talking about something serious and then it would have a scene focusing on his personal life as if he was the story. Reich is an interesting guy and worthy of a movie on his own but that wasn’t the point of this movie, and pulling focus away from his message to focus on him felt unnecessary.
Still, one of the ways that I decide on whether I won or the cat won comes down to the question of whether or not I would recommend this movie to someone else. For me this movie was a wash, and I suspect it would be a waste of time for other people who are reasonably well read on this topic, but it is accessible enough that I can see it being pretty helpful for people who are curious about the topic and need a starting point. Because I can imagine recommending it – even if I can’t recommend it universally - I’m calling it: