The more things change, the more they stay the same.
My husband and I watched two movies this past week whose subject matter addresses the state of our health insurance industry, the state of our financial health and our continual dependence on an uncaring, for-profit-only Corporate America. The stories are similarly stocked with requisite bad guys, used generically not genderically (sic) lacking the ethics and moral compass to do anything other than protect themselves at the risk of screwing hundreds of thousands of "little people". The protagonists are quiet men with high ideals, now destroyed by the prototypes of their calling, who take on their individual Goliaths because it's the right thing to do.
Similarities between the films are striking. The film we saw first, "Margin Call", was inspired by the Wall Street financial crisis and a fictional firm's reaction to learning they've invested a huge percentage of their portfolio into toxic mortgages.
The fictional head of a Wall Street firm “John Tuld” (a composite character resembling Merrill Lynch’s John Thain and Lehman Brothers’ Dick Fuld and played by the wonderfully villainous Jeremy Irons) is told that the firm is drowning in toxic mortgage-backed securities. Tuld orders his traders to rid the firm’s balance sheet of the junk by dumping it on unsuspecting counterparties and customers. Forbes.com 10/25/11
The second movie, The Rainmaker, is about a newly graduated lawyer who hasn't yet passed the bar exam. He is hired by a less-than-ethical ambulance-chasing firm and given a wrongful termination of health insurance suit to defend. The company is of Prudential proportions and ruthless in their mandate to "deny all claims" at the outset, then play a departmental shell game ("Who's got my insurance claim now?) betting the hapless, in this case dying, insured will give up and go away.
Both films are well directed, predictably frustrating with less than satisfying endings. Because, real life isn't all that satisfying is it?
"Margin Call" released in 2011. "The Rainmaker" released in 1997, based on John Grisham's 1995 book of the same name. Both have excellent casts and performances resonating with
issues past, present, and future.
And doesn't that say something about we the people and the choices we continue to make?