Film Review: Divorce Corp.

Documentary tackles the divorce industry with the same zeal as the lawyers it rebukes.

Filmmaker Joe Sorge provides a valuable service for a lot of naïve people with Divorce Corp., an exposé of the Kafkaesque world of divorce and family court. Assuming Sorge’s research is balanced and accurate, and one cannot always be so sure, his film sounds a warning to anyone contemplating either marriage or divorce. This means Divorce Corp. could (and maybe should) be seen by almost everyone.

After establishing that divorce has become big business for lawyers in recent decades, Sorge interviews a great number of people, including litigants in previous or present divorce cases, judges, and the attorneys themselves. Not all the lawyers come off badly, but nearly all of them are complicit in a corrupt system, where states financially reward courts in correlation to the number of divorces granted. Despite public complaints about judges colluding with lawyers, few jurists are ever removed from their positions. The film’s view of divorce in Scandinavia offers an upbeat contrast to the relentlessly sad and cynical American way.

Narrated by relationship guru Drew Pinksy, Divorce Corp. hooks you with its series of stories about broken, bitter relationships made all the more rancorous by the court system. These horror tales include a woman’s discovery that the lawyer she had hired for an astronomical sum did next to no work for her while openly carrying on as a porn party promotor, the very kind of thing that would have destroyed her chances in her custody battle had she herself been involved in such activity.

Sorge delivers the goods with other juicy accounts, not unlike the kind detailed on the “reality” and talk shows Dr. Pinsky has hosted for cable television. Fortunately, the first-time director uses the talking heads without turning his “re-enactment” bits into offensively over-the-top dramatizations. Divorce Corp. is well-constructed and consistently holds the viewer’s attention. For many, the film will be a jolting rejoinder to all those Hollywood romantic comedies and dramas where wedding scenes signal happy endings.

Divorce Corp.’s one serious caveat is its reliance on anecdotal information, not studies or statistics, and its general lack of a larger context. At least the latter is the case when the shift to Scandinavia fails to explain that the socialist support system of government has something to do with the region’s less greedy, big- business attitudes. When Sorge blames alimony as the heart of the problem in America, and denigrates the feminist movement’s fight to establish financial equity in divorce, he himself seems a little naïve.