Satisfying Workers’ Doc ‘The Market Basket Effect’ Might Make You Feel the Bern


The fish rots from the head. No group understands this better than the employees and customers of low-cost New England grocery store chain Market Basket, which risked its livelihood to fight the ousting of beloved populist CEO Arthur T. Demoulas.

In his rousing — if at times syrupy — documentary, director Tommy Reid captures this stranger-than-fiction feel-good tale and bottles it in rosy glass. Combining court documents, footage of the protests, and interviews with reverent personnel, reporters, and politicians, Reid’s fast-paced and engaging film appears to play out as a simple question-and-answer exercise. Q: Why did hundreds of working-class people fight on behalf of a billionaire? A: The American Dream.

In truth, the saga of the Demoulas dynasty does hit that sweet spot between Sophocles, Machiavelli, and Mario Puzo: tragedy, vendettas, betrayals, machinations, and prodigal sons, all within the mythology of a family-run regional corporation born from a turn-of-the-century butchery run by Greek immigrants. Michael Chiklis’s narration parses out every soap-operatic twist, positioning “Artie T.” as the embodiment of his grandparents’ egalitarian people-before-profits business philosophy and his cousin “Arthur S.” as his Cain. Reid veers into hagiography, presenting an unquestioning vision of Artie T.’s cult of personality, but more strikingly, he draws a hopeful microcosm of the Occupy movement (complete with a happy ending).

For those who feel the Bern, this film will stir the spirit, a testament to the force of grassroots efforts. For others, it may simply come across as a Pyrrhic victory, a single battle won in the war on the American middle class. But there is no mistaking its strongest argument: Brand loyalty is one hell of a drug.

We the People: The Market Basket Effect
Directed by Tommy Reid
Opens April 22, Cinema Village