Even though Michael Moore and I are probably in agreement on almost all baseline issues I've had difficulty in the past supporting his films which are at times manipulative, melodramatic and well, unkempt. He has single-handedly popularized the I-Am-The-Story approach to the political documentary film-making and that has served no greater purpose except to put more stupid, white men into our public discourse.
But Moore has (at least) two striking talents as a film-maker. One is the ability recognize what his strengths and weaknesses are and adapt accordingly. With Sicko he has kept his signature "gags" that have gotten him into hot water in the past: haranguing a decrepit Charlton Heston and signing up members of Congress's children to go to Iraq to a well-managed minimum. And by the end of this film we're all ready for the emotional release of comedy and tragedy when Moore takes a group of 9/11 rescue workers to Guantanamo Bay and Cuba for the health care they can't afford in America.
The other is to lay out a massive amount of highly charged information that leaves an audience feeling motivated instead of hopeless. Which is probably a much better explanation for his successes than merely the provocative nature of his films or persona. You can go see his films with your friends or on a date and not be consumed with the desire to drink yourself to death afterwards (in fact, this film could really jump start a date. Why are doctors in other countries a million times hotter than any American doctor I've ever laid eyes on?)
Moore has joked that Sicko marks the first of his films that was not "ahead of its time" as most polls indicate that health care is going to be a top issue in the 2008 elections. The target demographic for Sicko is the American middle class, people who have health coverage but have probably dealt with insurance companies enough to know that our system is an expensive and dangerous failure. By appealing to the more centric points of view on the issue Moore may actually be able to embolden change in this country that doesn't have to stem from heads being on pikes. And not a minute too soon.