The American debt crisis is raked over the coals in this fascinating but ultimately flawed documentary from James D.
Scurlock. While not uniquely American, our debt dilemmas are an offshoot of the "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" creed put forth by our founders. Yet having the biggest and best comes with a large price tag. From gaudy mansions in Las Vegas desert subdivisions to the tiniest homes in poor, small-town America, Scurlock traces the downward debt spiral that traps many Americans. Mass credit-card abuse and loan mismanagement are definite causes, but not sole culprits. With even our government borrowing funds to stay afloat, Scurlock shows how the system is ingrained into our country's mechanics. Running rampant, it allows banks and private lenders to use predatory methods to hound debtors and to maintain ridiculously high interest rates that prevent balance payments, further perpetuating the cycle. Scurlock presents many portraits of people adversely affected by their debt. The scenarios are heartbreaking, particularly those that involved suicide as an escape from debt hell. Yet for all of the tragedy, Scurlock fails the film by bypassing the issue of personal responsibility. Money management advocacy and education is not stressed enough. Blame should be placed where it is due, but solutions would have been more powerful. (Phil Morehart) Grade: C