Michael Moore in Trumpland
Directed by: Michael Moore.
Written by: Michael Moore.
Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 may not be his best film (for my money, that’s Bowling for Columbine) – but it certainly felt like his most urgent back in the summer of 2004 when it was released. At that point, we weren’t quite three years removed from 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were building, and George W. Bush was President, and wanted to continue to ramp up the War on Terror. The price of re-electing him was too high – and Moore laid out his case for that in a film that feature less Moore than normal (normally, he’s front and center in all of his films – here, while he did the voiceover, he’s rarely seen). The result was the highest grossing documentary of all time – but one that didn’t change the outcome of the election.
12 years later, Moore is back with a surprise film just weeks before the 2016 Presidential election. As a film, it is Moore’s most straight forward to be sure – it’s essentially a concert doc, of his one-man show he filmed a few weeks ago in Ohio, for an audience that he hoped would be mostly made up of Trump supporters (give how many cheers he gets from the get go, I’m not sure that’s what happened – it may well be another case of Moore preaching to the converted). I would have loved to see a documentary of Moore actually talking to some of Trump’s supporters – both the ones that have made themselves into hateful caricatures at this point, and those disaffected Republicans and Conservatives who just don’t want to see Hillary in the White House. It also would have been great to see Moore talk to people more like himself – who were Bernie supporters in the primaries, to try to win them over. But Moore doesn’t really talk to anyone in Michael Moore in Trumpland – he talks at them – and at those of us in the audience. I think he may win over some of the men in the audience who start off watching him with their arms crossed, and eventually find themselves laughing along with Moore as the film progresses – surprised perhaps that someone who Conservative radio and news stations have made out to be the devil for years now, is actually a friendly, funny, patriotic guy.
The title of the film is misleading however – with a title like Michael Moore in Trumpland, you expect it to be about Donald Trump – but it isn’t really. Moore dispatches with Trump fairly quickly in the film, dismissing him as if he isn’t worth his or our time discussing. Instead, what Moore has done is pretty much made the case for Hillary Clinton – from the point of view of someone who doesn’t really like Hillary Clinton (he says he voted for Bernie in the primary, Obama in 2008 – and third parties in 1992 and 1996 instead of her husband).
This may well end up being more effective for Moore rather than attacking Trump – if he can actually reach the people like him who voted for Bernie in the primaries – but who unlike him, are acting like whiny, crybabies because their candidate lost, and are now going to vote for a third party candidate – even if they are dangerously unqualified as Trump is. Moore’s case for Clinton as flawed candidate – but one America should get behind, one whose flaws are understandable when taken in context with everything she has gone through – the sexism that has been hurled at her and her generation of women, etc. He makes a compelling case for her.
Then again, I’m not 100% why Moore felt so strongly that he needed to get this documentary out, right now. Trump’s campaign has been in a tailspin for weeks – he’s not likely to pull out of it now. Hillary Clinton is all but assured to win the election in two weeks – and we can all put this behind us then. Unlike a film like Fahrenheit 9/11, I don’t see much overall, lasting intrinsic value to the film – there will virtually be no point to watching it come November 9th. For now though, if you’re an America who is thinking of voting for anyone other than Hillary Clinton, than perhaps you should watch this film. For everyone else, I’m not quite sure. Moore is a good speaker, and the film’s fleet 73 minute runtime goes by pleasantly enough. But really, you should know this by now, right?