Katie Recommends: Sicko

Coincidentally, I saw Sicko right after yelling at my doctor’s office because they wouldn’t give me the referral that my insurance required.

Turns out I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve never gone bankrupt over health issues or lost a family member because insurance wouldn’t cover treatment. Many of the people featured in this film can’t say that.

It starts off with a scene I couldn’t watch—a man without health insurance giving himself stitches. But, as Moore demonstrates, Americans with health insurance often aren’t much better off. He found his subjects by advertising on the Internet, and thousands of people—most of whom were insured—responded. A woman who was in a car accident couldn’t get her insurance to pay for the ambulance because it wasn’t pre-approved—even though she was unconscious when the ambulance came. An older couple portrayed early in the film were forced to move in with their daughter after mounting insurance bills caused them to lose their home. One man, whose insurance would only pay for cochlear implants in one of his hearing-impaired daughter’s ears, called his insurance company’s CEO and name-dropped Moore, ending with, “Have you ever been in a movie?” The result: a hilarious voicemail from the CEO informing him that they’d reversed their decision and would cover both implants.

Not so hilarious are the stories of people who’ve lost loved ones to insurance problems. One woman describes how her husband died of cancer after their insurance wouldn’t cover a bone marrow transplant, even though his younger brother was a perfect match. Another woman lost her toddler daughter because she couldn’t get to the hospital covered by her HMO on time, and the closest hospital wouldn’t treat her.

Furthermore, the rules for purchasing health insurance are ridiculous. If you have basically any pre-existing condition at all and try to buy health insurance, you’ll be denied—even if, in the case of one woman, it’s just a yeast infection you had years ago. You can be denied for having a weight deemed too high or too low. One woman was denied treatment for cervical cancer because, at twenty-two, she was apparently “too young” to get the disease. And some 9/11 rescue workers who suffer from breathing problems and PTSD are denied treatment because they weren’t technically “working” at the time.

Equally amazing are the snapshots he gives of healthcare in foreign countries. In England, the hospital will reimburse you for your travel. In France, doctors make house calls, extended sick leave is granted, and not only are new mothers required to take maternity leave, but the government will actually send someone to help them with their laundry. Even Cuba—a country whose ills Moore does anything but deny—offers free universal health care and drugs that would be hundreds of dollars in America for the equivalent of five cents.

While I loved Bowling for Columbine, one issue I’ve always had with Michael Moore is that he kind of preaches to the choir. I don’t think most of his movies are likely to get people to change their minds. That’s why I didn’t see Fahrenheit 9/11—I already knew I didn’t like Bush, and I didn’t think I needed Moore to give me any more reasons. But this movie is different. It’s surprisingly non-partisan—he gets in shots at both Dubya and Hillary, and the key word in universal health care is universal. Everyone, at some point, has had to deal with the flaws in the US health care system, and it’s getting harder and harder to argue that the system is fair.

As always, his facts are presented selectively. I’m sure that not all British hospitals are as great as the one shown in the movie. Those Cuban drugs might not be of good quality, and while he shows how a typical French family doesn’t seem to be adversely affected by the taxes they’re paying, he stops short of saying how much they do pay. Regardless, these countries have, by all measures, a much more successful health care system than that of the US, which is ranked 37th in the world. And considering that this a country that supposedly holds the truth that all men are created equal to be self-evident, the philosophy of letting hard-working people die because of a pre-existing condition or an inability to pay seems more in line with Animal Farm: “All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Other movies I’ve seen lately:

No Reservations

I expected this to be exactly like Raising Helen, and it was—cute, harmless, ultimately unmemorable. If you know the plot elements—workaholic woman, orphaned niece, attractive co-worker— you already know how it’s going to go.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I tend not to be very critical of the Harry Potter movies. I think if you go in expecting them to be just like the books, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. They’re long, complicated books, so something’s going to get the shaft somewhere. Order of the Phoenix was the longest Harry Potter book, and a lot—including all the Quidditch and Ron’s “Weasley is our king” storyline—is left out here, but I think they did a nice job focusing on the important parts. I saw it in IMAX, and it was awesome—the whole Ministry scene is in 3-D. Also, the casting of the new characters is fantastic. Imelda Staunton is a perfect Umbridge. Helena Bonham Carter is a terrific, psychotic Bellatrix. Natalia Tena, who I remember from About a Boy, is a great Tonks, and Evanna Lynch made Luna exactly the way I pictured her. And a lot of scenes were interesting visually in a way I hadn’t anticipated, like Umbridge posting all her decrees on the wall.


While this wasn’t my favorite Pixar movie, it was entertaining and cute. I hate rats, but Remy, the movie’s hero, is just so adorable and likeable. And while the plots of some other Pixar movies—toys coming to life, the lives of bugs—have been done elsewhere, this one’s very original. I’d call it the best movie ever made about a foodie rat.

Bridge to Terabithia

I was hesitant to see this for a long time because the previews turned me off. I was afraid they’d turned a beautifully written children’s book about friendship and loss into an overdone, CGI-animated fantasy. Luckily, my friends who’d seen it told me, correctly, that the previews were misleading and the CGI sequences constituted only about five minutes of the movie. All told, it’s pretty faithful to the book, except that they’ve updated it (the book was written in the 1970s) and it’s very well-done.

Pan’s Labyrinth

I really enjoyed this. It’s wonderfully original and very sad. Ivana Baquero, who plays the young protagonist Ofelia, gives a sensitive performance. The really interesting thing, though, is how you come away remembering the historical drama and the fantasy sequences equally, and how seamlessly they fit together.


Okay, I’ll say it—the Academy was right not to nominate this for Best Picture. Not that there isn’t a lot that’s good about it. Jennifer Hudson is every bit as good as you’ve heard with both her vocals and her acting. It’s amazing to think that this is her first movie. The rest of the acting is solid (although I think Eddie Murphy’s performance is overrated), as is the memorable music. Plot-wise, however, it drags a bit. The storyline just couldn’t hold my interest the whole way through.

Happy Feet

Well, first of all, it’s got penguins. Who doesn’t like penguins? Especially penguins who dance and/or sing? And have parents named after Elvis and Marilyn? And teach us, in a rather unexpected way, about global warming? While the song sequences can get a little weird, this is a cute, very enjoyable movie.

The Last King of Scotland

I liked this. Didn’t love it, but liked it. It’s very well-acted by both Forest Whittaker as Idi Amin and the underrated James McAvoy as Amin’s fictional personal physician. Gillian Anderson, whom I loved on The X-Files, has a memorable small part as well.

Little Children

I read and liked the book by Tom Perrotta, and I enjoyed the movie as well. While it doesn’t really add anything new to the desperate-and-bored-suburban-parent genre, it has Kate Winslet being fantastic as usual and an interesting subplot about a child molester moving into town—a zealous parent, who turns out to be an ex-cop with a dark secret of his own, goes so far as to spray-paint the guy’s driveway. The use of a third-person narrator is a bit jarring, but necessary for the plot.

The Queen

This is such an interesting idea for a movie. I remember so well when Princess Diana died—it seems impossible that it was ten years ago—and of course I remember it from the perspective of most of the world. Telling the story from the queen’s point of view raises a lot of interesting questions. What did cause her to make that speech? How sincere was it? How affected was she by the negative press surrounding her? It’s speculation about the lives of people who are still alive, and I kind of wonder if the queen has seen this movie. I doubt it, but I wonder what she’d think. I have this image in my mind of her watching and fuming, “I never said that!” but in the end, the movie makes her look pretty good. Helen Mirren is outstanding, capturing the dignity and sensitivity of Queen Elizabeth II and making her very sympathetic.

Next Stop Wonderland

Anyone familiar with the T can surmise from the title that this movie is going to have at least one scene on the Blue Line. Actually, with scenes at the airport and the aquarium, it could be called Ode to the Blue Line. It came out in 1998, and I recently saw it on On Demand. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before—woman being dumped by long-term boyfriend, meddling relative placing a personal ad, two characters are MFEO but don’t know it yet—but it still comes off feeling authentic. Hope Davis is great as Erin, the main character, managing not to make her any of the single-urban-woman clichés. She’s not a workaholic, not a sex addict, not a shoe collector, and not a man-hater. She’s just a modern woman simultaneously craving aloneness and love. It’s not likely to be anyone’s favorite movie, but it’s enjoyable. Plus, I have a soft spot for any movie that takes place in Boston.

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