As far as enjoyment and appreciation of Michael Moore's films go, it pays to approach them as visual essays rather than relatively objective documentaries. They are obviously out to make a point, everything from the fact that Moore narrates his own documentaries with a deft ear for wit and irony, as well as some of the clever editing choices made in order to bring out the bitter truth in any given situation, choices that are being emulated by politically satirical shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report today, showcases his approach.
It's true that as his career progressed, his certain stretching of the truth began reaching right-wing pundit levels, like when he insinuated at the end of his film Sicko that Cuba was a medical paradise. However, compared to certain people and news networks on the right who blatantly tell unsubstantiated lies 24/7 to sell their point-of-view, Moore's occasional manipulations won't even register on the communal bullcrap pool of America.
Roger & Me, a documentary (There's that word again) Moore gambled on while on welfare without any job prospects in the future, is easily one of his best works. I think my favorite of his films will always be Bowling for Columbine.
Released in 1989, Roger & Me covers Moore's failed attempts to get an interview with then-General Motors CEO Roger Smith to ask him about the thousands of jobs being lost in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, where the heart of the American auto manufacturing industry used to be. While Moore tries to track Smith down via the many corporate office ambush scenes he would later become famous for, he also shows us the effect the job losses had on his friends and his community at large.
Roger & Me holds the distinction of being Moore's most serious and sincere effort and one can tell that he genuinely wanted to affect change in his community through his film. In fact, even though Roger & Me opened a lot of doors for his career, he still considers the film to be failure since it didn't bring more jobs to Flint through its box-office success.
Moore cleverly edits his own footage, stock footage, newscasts and various other media in order to get his point across. His penchant for using editing tricks in order to generate an emotional response from the audience is in its baby steps here, yet his genuine interest in his film's subject matter make this manipulative approach that much more effective.
After one of his friends talk about the irony of singing along to The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" on the radio with tears in his eyes after suffering a mental breakdown from working at the factory without any job security for years, Moore caps the scene with the song playing over images of foreclosed homes in Flint. The decrepit state of the city gets a depressing callback as Moore uses similar footage over Roger Smith's insultingly glib Christmas speech.
Since Moore utilized a lot of different forms of media in order to construct his thesis, fans of the film who already own the DVD copy will not find much reason to upgrade here. Even though the film footage is transferred to HD with loving detail, without any visible video noise or scratches to boot, the rough nature of the film's production, which was pulled off on a shoestring budget, doesn't really warrant an HD upgrade. However, as far as loyalty to the source material is concerned, this transfer is near perfect.
Roger & Me's Blu-Ray is presented with the same lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 track that exists on the DVD edition. The mix between dialogue (Or filmed interviews and testimonials in this case) and various non-diagetic music go well together. Otherwise, this is a mix that would work fine coming from regular TV speakers.
Commentary by Michael Moore: This is a new commentary recorded for the film's 25th anniversary. It's very informative and Moore has a lot of energy. Unfortunately the commentary from the original DVD release is missing.
We also get a Trailer.
Roger & Me's 25-year-old "Corporate vs. human interests" themes still ring true to this day, perhaps even more so as our wealth inequality rises to insane levels. Even though it looks dated, it's more relevant than ever and deserves a revisit. Anyone who already doesn't have the DVD edition is encouraged to check it out.