I like Russell Brand. I like Michael Winterbottom…and I like capitalism. So THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES was a must-see in my book. Would the Brand and Winterbottom combo be able to dissuade me from my capitalist ideals?
THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES is a documentary looking at the growing disparity of wealth between the economic classes (specifically in the UK, but the same principles could be applied to most developed nations). Brand uses his celebrity power and commoner accent to try and spark change in the way Western economies are managed.
From the outset, this film is flawed. If Brand wanted to initiate real change and spread his message as widely as possible, why release this documentary in a cinema; a venue where people have to pay to see it? Why not distribute it for free via social media so anyone and everyone can watch it? This one question could disempower the entire project. Yet, I managed to put it aside.
Economics is a dry subject. But there’s nothing dry about Russell Brand. This doco is definitely aimed at the masses, and what better way to appeal to the masses than to use Brand’s charm, charisma and commoner accent? He manages to make even this boring subject fun, while still maintaining a level of intelligence.
His persona has been heavily constructed as a ‘man of the people’ in this doco. He’s seen cuddling children and holding hands with struggling lower class families. It’s a little overdone perhaps, but it serves to remind us that Brand is from a similarly disadvantaged background and, despite his current wealth, is not yet disconnected from the reality of lower class life.
Complex economic principles are simplified so we can understand them but, at the same time, they aren’t completely ‘dumbed down’. Director Michael Winterbottom has struck a good balance here.
There are some cheesy graphics used to inject energy into potentially boring economic discussions. While I found these a little demeaning (do I really need squiggly coloured lines zooming across the screen to keep me interested?!) I understand the intent behind them.
As a full blown capitalist (I believe those who work hard and are educated should earn more money) I was skeptical about this film. Yet these feelings were unfounded. This isn’t a vouch for communism, or a bash of the middle classes. This doco is targeted against the truly wealthy (those taking home millions upon millions each year and using clever accounting to avoid paying any tax) and the Governments that let them get away with it. It certainly is eye-opening.
The clever final act offers five simple changes that can be made to shift the scales of the uneven distribution of wealth. These five steps appear very achievable and I found myself completely sold.
While the intent of this doco is a little blurry (again, if they’re so passionate about this subject, why not distribute the film for free?) and while the ‘man of the people’ image projected of Brand is a little corny, ultimately this is a solid documentary. Entertaining and informative. I rate it 8 stars.