Freakonomics

2010

Documentary

104
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 66%
IMDb Rating 6.4 10 6,692

Synopsis


Downloaded times
February 12, 2021

Director

Cast

Melvin Van Peebles as Self - Narrator
Morgan Spurlock as Self - Narrator
720p.BLU
856.93 MB
1280*720
English 2.0
PG-13
23.976 fps
85 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by tributarystu 5 / 10 / 10

Lukewarm at best

I'll admit from the off that I was skeptical regarding this documentary ever since I first heard it was in production. Having read the book, I felt that what made it enjoyable could not really be transposed onto film. Economics, being such a science of numbers, even in its freakonomic form, does not really lend itself to being narrated to death. Going beyond this limitation, I reckon the film could have still been better, had it found a unity of tone. Unfortunately, as several different teams were involved with making each of the four chapters, the final experience is heavily fragmented and unlike the book, which kept its pacing throughout, the film is all over the place. The first part basically looks at whether there is some sort of correlation between a person's first name and the path one goes through life. A potentially amusing segment, it proves to be in search of a comic sense it never arrives at and the examples taken from the book appear wholly unrealistic and not fully integrated. The second part is quite dark and brings forth a sort of investigation into the Sumo world and allegations of match-rigging. Contextualized in the sacrosanct culture that defines the sport, this exploration of truth, justice and fair-play toys around with big words and complex issues, its reach ultimately exceeding its grasp. The third part references dear old Romania and our beloved dictator's policy of ruling abortions illegal - a subject matter dealt with artistically in the well-known "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days". I'm not quite sure the parallel proves a point, because it tries to show how the opposite policy, legalizing abortion in the US following Roe v Wade, caused a sudden, steep reduction in crime in the early nineties. Ironically enough, the generation Ceausescu (the dictator referenced above) forcibly gave birth to, so to say, caused his downfall. Yet, I think this segment points out an interesting observation, even if one could get distracted by the overly dramatic narration. The last part is an on-film experiment about trying to find an incentive to make kids get better grades in high-school by offering financial rewards. Unfortunately, the set-up lacks any authentic feel and implicitly does not help support the case that the authors tried to convey. So overall it would seem that almost all segments have at least one fundamental issue that they don't tackle very well. At times the film livens due to the interesting nature of the facts being presented, but on the whole it's still shy of a successful venture. Even while reading the book I felt that the novelty seeped out of it before I had reached its end and this feeling was only exacerbated in the documentary. I don't think this is the place to debate the correctness of the research Levitt and Dubner have done or their conclusions, because the film certainly does not offer a strong basis to work on. The book has a scientific feel to it, conferring at least a sense of objectivity and, more importantly, finding the levity to show that it does not assume to offer absolute answers. The documentary, on the other hand, loses sight of this and never manages to find its proper balance.

Reviewed by Promontorium 7 / 10 / 10

Entertaining but light on details

This isn't really a documentary. A few of the chapters from the book are presented in this film. The way the issues are presented usually involve first Levitt and Dubner speaking about the issue interspersed with various imagery and animation. Some archival footage is used. Particularly when the topic addresses famous historical events. Each segment will also have actors re-enacting events or acting out original scenes to present the topic visually. There are also other experts or people who call themselves experts (like an "expert" in baby names) talking about the issue. Finally there is some footage of actual people either discussing personal experiences, or in the case of the high school students, the students themselves living their lives. Although even this seems staged at points. It seems they used a lot of flashy graphics and various forms of presentation to cover up the fact that this film is ultimately Levitt, Dubner and the narrator just talking generally about the issues covered in the book. I'm a fan of the podcast so if this film had just been them talking and nothing else I'd still have liked it. But there is a sense of lacking an opportunity in creating something new on film. All the colorful imagery doesn't bring anything new to the table. The film doesn't cover the entire book. I haven't read it in years but one of the more important topics to me was about the drug dealers which wasn't in the film. What I found really lacking, beyond the visual or the missing chapters, is that they didn't really go into detail with anything. They vaguely reference statistics, but hardly show any. They make off handed comments about important concepts that they don't spend any time on. Two of the most important themes of the entire work, causation vs. causality, and the power of incentive are hardly discussed beyond the immediate topic. For example while they note in the film that people often mistake correlation with causation, and that finding cause is very difficult, they don't spend a second actually explaining why cause is difficult to ascertain (except that it isn't immediately apparent). Day one of a social science course is going to identify the difficulty or impossibility of defining cause. Levitt and Dubner do not mention that while statistics and economics in the scope of numbers is natural science, their application in Freakonomics is social science, and all the stats in the world won't necessarily prove cause in social science.

Reviewed by DICK STEEL 7 / 10 / 10

A Nutshell Review: Freakonomics

Based upon the bestselling book written by steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics the film is an omnibus of shorts, where different filmmakers adapt a segment of the book for their respective sections, and then putting them all together into a feature length documentary. In some ways, it could have been directed by an invisible hand rather than the "big name" documentarians of today and probably still come up on tops, since the subject matter is rather contentious at best, and in my opinion, a little bit too stretched. For my limited understanding of basic economic principles from school, there's hardly any straightforward demand and supply theories that can be applied by anyone not too well versed with various theorems and hypotheses that Economics deal with, though you need not have intimate knowledge of the subject in order to view the film. I thought it was more of a sociology experiment, since there are many of topics here that deal with the basic human condition on social principles rather than an economic standpoint, and in many ways, through its touted in depth analysis, it's more akin to hammering a square peg into a round hole. It adapts from chapters in the book such as discovering cheating as applied to teachers and delving deep into the closed community of sumo wrestlers, the patterns that emerge with the naming, or misnaming of children, and how bribery can be used as an incentive to succeed. You can imagine how economics can be applied to these, so perhaps it's quite apt that the concepts discussed are freakish to begin with. Economics theories and principles are filled with plenty of assumptions and "ceteris paribus"es, so in twisting some of these assumptions, what you get is the content as explained in Levitt and Dubner's book, which are adapted by the likes of Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me and Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden), Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight), Rachel Grady and Heldi Ewing (Jesus Camp), and put all together with various transitional, brief topics by Seth Gordon (The King of Kong). Perhaps the only economics related idea here is how the lack of information and irrational choices by consumers have led to skewed markets, which goes to show the sneaky arsenal of tactics that real estate agents have up their sleeves to manipulate markets to their advantage. But while you shouldn't expect economics to fit into most of the subject matter discussed here, the concept that gets explained are incredibly sexy, and brought out through eye- catching methods, sometimes with the use of effective animation like a lubricant to force ideas down and eventually nailing that square peg into the round hole. What's more important is the fact that we cannot deny the little things everyone does to get ahead, where the objective is to use whatever means possible to get a desired outcome. The teacher and results segment remind one about how school ranking pressures here become an obsession, with results to the detriment of those who somehow fall by the sidelines, and how an elite community help each other to stay afloat for various benefits and back-rubbing. It's human nature to seek out competitive advantage, and one constant in sitting through the various topics and scenarios presented, is how data mining (a term I got introduced to when in varsity) has that ability to present a wealth of information that can be used to analyze for gaining that upper hand. Businesses use it, and so does the many researchers of topics in Freakonomics. You won't become an expert or a whiz after viewing this, but what it'll open your eyes and mind to, are the plenty of behind the scenes shenanigans that even the seemingly innocent industry or individual get up to, that indeed like the tagline of the film says everything has a hidden side to them. It's really more than meets the eye, and presented here in a very alluring manner.

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