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