Written by Films

Dear Lemon Lima & Capitalism: A Love Story

Dear Lemon Lima is one of those many films that you have see completely blind at a film festival. According to IMDB it’s only had a screening at one other film festival and I can’t see details of a release date which is a terrible shame.

Vanessa Lemor (Savanah Wiltfong) is a young teenage girl living in Fairbanks, Alaska who’s completely infatuated with Philip (Shayne Topp) who works with her for a summer job selling ice cream at a stand. But Philip has well to do parents who’ve taken him away to Paris for part of the summer, so by the time they both start school again, he’s no longer a geek – the glasses have gone – and he’s rather thoughtlessly ditched Lemor who certainly hasn’t got over him.

Can she retain his affections? Can she fit into the school that she’s won a scholarship for?

She’s not very good at physical education, so the super-keen PE teacher banishes her with the others who have problems or notes from home in the “weights room.” There she finds some kindred spirits.

Lemor is half-Eskimo (Yup’ik) – that’s how she attained her scholarship – and is therefore expected to know things that frankly her distant Eskimo-father never taught her and her mother certainly didn’t.

The film is laced with finely tuned humour, never coarse, and the characters are very believable. There are the uptight neighbours who are concerned that Lemor may be a bad influence on Hercule, their son who seems more interested in living nature than joining the rifle club and killing deer (there’s a wonderful family photo of a happy father and mother standing over a dead animal while their child looks on disgusted). The weights room misfits slowly bond together and then there’s the Snowstorm Survivor competition which this year takes place in broad sunshine rather than snow. The games played are supposed to reminiscent of the Eskimo heritage of the people of Alaska.

Fine performances by most of the cast, including once again the much underrated Melissa Leo as Mrs Howard, the uptight mother next door who’s turn is more than simply comic.

In the end, the plot is perfunctory, but that shouldn’t detract from the overall feeling of the film which is less cutesy in the way that some of its would-be peers might be treading the same ground.

My only real disappointment came as I read the credits and it was obvious that like so many Alaska-set films and TV shows before it, this one was also shot in Washington State. I suppose I don’t complain that most series and film are shot in California regardless of their setting, but it’d be nice if a few more films set far afield were actually filmed there. Many of the actors, as well as director Suzi Yoonessi are Eskimo however.

I only managed to get my ticket for the Surprise Film the day before the screening. I’d managed to miss out by the time booking was open for Times readers (I’m not a BFI member, and I’m not really an enormous Times reader, but I was glad of their sponsorship nonetheless). Then last week, the BFI Twitter feed announced that more tickets had gone on sale – while I was stuck in a two hour meeting. Then on Saturday, a load of seats were released which I managed to see in time and book.

The London Film Festival tells you that most screenings have returns and that however sold out they appear, it’s always worth coming along early to see if you can get one. The surprise film might be one too many though because the returns queue was simply enormous yesterday. While some got in, people definitely turned up more than 20-30 minutes early to get them.

In the cinema itself, there was discussion about what the film was. Clearly some knew – perhaps from the relevant distribution company. I was also in the 20:45 screening and there was a 20:30 screening who were almost certainly texting people in our audience. Anyway, I managed to still be in the dark before the credits started to roll and it became clear that it was indeed Capitalism: A Love Story – the new Michael Moore film.

When the title came up, one person actually left the cinema. Well more fool him, as this was a passionately made film and quite easily the best film Moore’s made since Bowling For Columbine, and indeed perhaps his best film ever. Indeed although Moore was on screen for some of the film, it really wasn’t about him. It was about the American – indeed world – system of capitalism and what it means and how it’s changed the way we work.

The film opens with families being foreclosed and evicted from their homes where they may have lived for dozens of years. There’s nothing that can be done, and in the US, the local police force is employed to throw these families out.

Moore makes fantastic use of archive material, not always relevant archive, but he uses it in a way similar to Adam Curtis uses it in his documentaries like The Power of Nightmares(Incidentally – what happened to the proposed feature version of his documentaries? His current work can be watched on his fascinating blog.).

Slowly we turn to the bank bailouts. This is a section of the film that’s passionately related by a handful of politicians who tried their best to reject the bailouts asked of them. At first, as we know, the package was rejected. But once the coterie of Goldman Sachs and other politicians had put the pressure on, and greased the palms that needed greasing, the package was passed.

What happened to that money? Well look around you today. The bonuses are back. Moore tries a couple of stunts, which really only provide some much needed humour amidst the otherwise gloom and despair we see around us. And despite the evident happiness of so many when Obama was elected, even Moore doesn’t try to persuade us that anything’s really changed.

This is a film which obviously only finished being edited very soon before its recent screenings in Venice and US opening. It needs to be seen by lots of people – now. Moore basically implores his audience at the end as he relates a couple of good stories of people who’ve refused to leave their foreclosed homes, a sheriff who’s refused to help administrate them and a factory taken over by its workers. Go and see it (although you may have to wait for February frustratingly).