Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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The Flaw

Film #389


People all over the world are still struggling with the aftermath of the greatest financial crisis since the Wall Street Crash of 1929. We all know what the effects have been but what exactly were the causes?

Year 2, Film #24

THE REVIEW: It’s almost been a week since I’ve watched a film for my movie marathon, but I’m am still ahead of my very modest schedule for this year. Had I continued with a film a day for the second year in a row, I never would have made it so it’s a good thing I knew when to ease up. Unlike the topic for today’s documentary, The Flaw. Once again returning to the financial sector (last visited in the drama Too Big to Fail), this documentary takes a more historical look at the recent recession, going over trends from the past century. The Flaw is a good look at this, but I can’t say it’s particularly original or exciting.

As I mentioned in my review for Too Big to Fail, finance is a particular area of interest for me. I took AP Economics in high school (and did fairly well—in micro, not macro) and have taken to watching many documentaries and whatnot on the subject. After watching a lot, they tend to become rote as hearing there was a big problem over and over again becomes boring. The market was in ruins with the equity and housing bubbles, people were responsible, and those same people didn’t see the bubble bursting. Nonetheless, there’s usually a few new factoids I pick up in each new thing I watch; sort of like watching your favorite movie or reading your favorite book for a second time and noticing things you missed the first time. It’s a similar situation only it’s done through multiple sources. The Flaw had the strength of a historical perspective. Many of the interviewees were big name economists or professors (or at least their titles suggest that—they only people I knew were the ones in archival footage like Alan Greenspan) and instead of focusing on the 2000s, the focus was set more on the early 1900s. Was there a precedent for the 2008 Recession or were trends in income inequality and asset values strikingly different? The most shocking piece of new information I learned was about the housing market: until the 2000s, the average price of a house in the United States never went above the average price of a house from 1890. Of course they go on to explain the consequences of this fact, but that soundbite I found particularly interesting.

What I didn’t like so much about The Flaw is it wasn’t particularly exciting. There were many animations (not custom-made, but old animations from the 50s) and personal stories that you could follow throughout the film, but the overall impression I got was one of boredom. This is more of an issue related to the field and is what prompted my economics professor to be amazed that high school students wanted to take her class in first period: the people are dull. It’s not like watching a comedian or a singer give a performance where even if they’re bad you’ll probably still be entertained. Here, an economist talking is like an automatic snooze-enabler. It’s hard to stay attentive when everyone speaks in a monotonous voice. And it’s even harder to stay attentive in the case of The Flaw because they kept introducing new people right up until the end and let some of the people introduced in the beginning fade away. The NEDAP is a great example of this. Introduced more than halfway into the documentary, this organization which combats predatory lending (one of the factors of the recession), gets a few minutes time, grabs our focus, but then is shoved aside again. In a documentary where focus is already hard to keep, meandering about isn’t helping out at all.

The Flaw is a great historical look at some of the areas leading up to the recent 2008 Recession, but it’s not much else. Unless you’re already highly interested in the subject, you probably won’t find it entertaining. It’s accessible, presented in an easy-to-understand way, and has some facts that I’d never heard before and for all these reasons, it made it worth watching. But for someone who isn’t interested in economics and the financial sector, there’s not much entertainment or appeal as a more pop-culture documentary might provide.

THE RATING: 3 out of 5