Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005)
Starring: Disgruntled union seeking employees, oppressed individuals and EPA watchdogs
Directed By: Robert Greenwald (Xanadu; Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism)
Overview: This is the story of how Wal-Mart does its part to kill the unions, the environment, and the health and well being of its employees and families, all in the name of the low prices we can't live without.
Acting: The people chosen for this documentary include those trying to set up unions, ex-managers (even current ones spilling the beans, picture below), environmental federal employees, all whose illuminating revelations are juxtaposed against the lying corporate speeches of the admirable Mr. Walton, head of Wal-Mart. All portrayals are honest without being overly dramatic. This producer has also done Outfoxed, a nice little tale about Fox News Channel. I thought the direction was a little weak though.
Cinematography: This is admittedly a little low-budget (so was Outfoxed). The text effects and editing were amateurish and unnecessary and added a sort of infantile razzle-dazzle that made it less effective, more immature. Otherwise there were attempts at having dynamic shots and angles and such, so the visuals were very decent, but overall not up to par.
Script: The writing, or rather the actual confessions of the employees, trainers and others, versus the dialogue of the corporate speech was brilliant. The way these honest people tell these horror stories really plants the seed of doubt in the not-so-doubtful. I think they get their point across rather well.
Plot: The story is not so astounding for someone in the know, though I did learn a few things: going out of the way to defraud the system for good-looking fiscal numbers, the EPA slapping millions of dollars of fines in environmental gaffes. That pissed me off. The nice thing is that it's not all negative, there's some funny parts and it ends with a bit of hope. It's a nice story, very revealing, and though the parking lot crime is a stretch, I'm still laying blame where it's due.
Mood: The mood suffered. It wasn't the most interesting film to watch, maybe because I already knew half of what they were talking about. Going through a documentary embarrassed at the dramatic whipping-crash sounds accompanied by big block text reading "FAMILY BUSINESSES AT RISK!" is never a good sign. It didn't happen to often and overall the believability was there, dramatic in its truth, but man, grow it up a bit.
"... besides, I mean they exploit China, right? How is that a bad thing?"
Overall Rating: 68% (The Poor Results of Low Budget)
Aftertaste: The approach of The Take, The Corporation and Super-Size Me is a good one. Documentaries should be more adult and have more funding. You don't think people would support a nice long documentary about corporate evil that smashes up unions? Please. The only thing missing from this Doc is budget and some more original producers. Greewald is good at trying, but he should try harder.
Damn, I so wanted to like this.