Breaking up is hard to do — especially in the U.S., where the family courts can exacerbate the emotional ordeal by throwing highway robbery and gross miscarriage of justice into the bargain. That's the argument driving "Divorce Corp.," an advocacy documentary that presents its case with less thoroughness than clarity. If first-timer Joe Sorge's filmmaking has a boilerplate feel and an unfortunate reliance on reenactments, beneath the infomercial surface is a cry for reform fueled by keen observations about contemporary American capitalism.
Litigants, retired judges and attorneys commanding more than $500 an hour are among the interviewees, their accounts depicting a process built upon regulatory complexity, limited individual rights and insidious cronyism among judges, lawyers and the so-called experts whose testimony can devastate lives.
With Drew Pinsky delivering the even-tempered but pointed narration, the film offers a basic historical perspective along with firsthand chronicles that tilt toward a certain level of affluence. There are tales of being forced into bankruptcy and horror stories involving child custody battles, false accusations, extortion and retaliatory judges.
By way of instructive comparison, Sorge goes to Iceland and Sweden for the film's only anecdotes of relatively painless divorce proceedings. In those countries, the courts are rarely involved — and economic equality precludes the provider/dependent alimony configuration. That crucial difference is one of the sharpest insights in "Divorce Corp." The director could have better argued aspects of his brief, but his healthy outrage illuminates the ways an offshoot of the legal system has become a profit-driven industry.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino; AMC Orange 30Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times