"President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans.
And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family."
What should matter on the loose terms that Greedy Lying Bastards sets up for itself has less to do with artful filmmaking but instead with a righteous indignation, which in it of itself can be artful in the right hands. A few years back, documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick made a not un-similar stink regarding gay politicians versus their own personal agendas in the film Outrage; the film called out the names in questions and opened that up to a deeper conversation not just about the said politicians, but about our political system in general. In contrast, Rosebraugh certainly names a few names and even gets a few goons to make personal appearances on behalf of the deniers of climate change club, but they're all nearly relegated to Idiot #1 and Idiot #2 status, while we listen to testimony that would hardly appear to be newsworthy to the frankly aware moviegoers who might be in attendance. The incendiary battle cry never quite gets summoned, even though the topic itself is illuminating. And while there's certainly a nobility to the scope on which Rosenbraugh sets himself, as well as few disconnected stories of timely, current and devastating effects, that charge is greatly missing.
For instance, there's shades of a the film (one not titled Greedy Lying Bastards) might have looked at when the filmmaker ventures to Tuvalu, a Polynesian island on the brink of vanishing for good. Chats with the worried, and mostly poor, townspeople that illuminates the untimely demise of not just a piece of land, but an entire culture-- a recent storm kept the entire island under nearly three feet of water for three days. Same is true of the village of Kivalina in Alaska, as the ice caps have started melted and whittling away their land-- they've been experiencing, for the first, beach erosion. There's no problem in dividing a film between the smarmy politics and the moving personal of its subject, but Greedy Lying Bastards is a tad too tender and too on the nose, seemingly truly afraid of making too big a stick, only sheepishly pointing the finger at the denial theorist with their hand in big oil.
Even a last minute endeavor when the film takes a literal cue from Michael Moore's Roger & Me and Rosenbraugh tries to get an interview with the heads of ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, rouses little more than a whimper. Not just because of the inevitable, but because he seemingly puts so little fight in to it. The revelation comes when he storms a private shareholders meeting (after procuring a small amount of Exxon stock) with a hidden camera in toe-- and the big shout out, as at the show it's revealed that perhaps man has something to do with this after all. Minor victory dance for the lefty muckraker in all of us, which stands for Rosenbraugh's achievements and the film as a whole. B-