Sunday, November 18, 2007

Maxed Out is an In Movie

I'm a tad behind the curve on this one. "Maxed out" is a documentary that has been around for awhile. In my usual timely fashion, I finally watched it last night. But in the best frugal condition, I waited until it came out on DVD, and then I reserved it at my local library. So, there was Grace, two of her adult kids, and a gigantic bowl of popcorn.

The movie is laugh out loud funny. But it's the kind of movie that makes me uncomfortable even as I'm laughing. How funny is it, really, to see a 44 year old retarded man who can only write his name when he is copying from printed letters, get a credit card? Do I want to see kids enter college where they get free T-shirts by signing up for credit cards, and where, in two of the saddest cases, they commit suicide over their debt? Why am I laughing when Bush appoints a disgraced banker to head a watchdog agency, when I should be throwing shoes at the television set?

Like many documentaries with a political agenda, "Maxed Out" makes no pretense of fairness--in fact it deliberately juxtaposes scenes and comments to get easy laughs.

But in the end, it is an utterly maddening movie. How dare the credit card and lending industries talk about personal responsibility when they deliberately exploit the most financially vulnerable among us.

The movie ends with the passage of bankruptcy reform and the spectre of possible sub-prime mortgage failures. From the vantage point of another year, we now know that bankruptcy reform did not harm the poor as much as we thought it might, and it did harm the credit card industry far more than they predicted. Some crows come home to roost in exactly the right place!

As for the possibility of subprime mortgage issues? How many ways can one say "Duh?"

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