Lock up your Lefties! Michael Moore is back and this time he’s got a documentary about a certain gentleman by the name of Donald J. Trump. Now, you might find this hard to believe, but Mr. Moore has a negative opinion of the President and intends to vent his thoughts on the man through the cinematic equivalent of an op-ed.
He also plans to use a bunch of stock footage as well as check in on his hometown of Flint and the current state of America’s gun problem. Yes, the main target may be different but literally every other aspect of Fahrenheit 11/9 is identical to every movie Moore’s made in the past. Those predisposed to hate him will do so again. Those who love him will continue to feel the same way. No surprises all around.
The film opens in typical Michael Moore fashion, with an ironic fake-out followed by a long montage/monologue that functions as an introductory paragraph to Moore’s latest cinematic essay. This time, it’s supposed to remind his assumed Left-leaning viewers about how sure they were that Hilary Clinton would win on that fateful election night, followed swiftly by a brief history of why Donald Trump is such a big jerk. Moore talks about his minor (yet in the context of this film, significant) personal history with Trump, takes the expected pot shots, and outlines all the reasons why the election went the way it did.
For anyone who has been paying attention to the news cycle (or at least refreshing their social media feeds a few times a day) over the last couple years, none of this offers any surprises. Moore seems to know it too, quickly dropping the “These are all the reasons why Trump is bad” routine to segue into updates on all his favorite subjects. A huge (and quite powerful) section is dedicated to the Flint water crisis, followed by a diversion into gun control, and plenty of material about new Liberal activists trying to upend the status quo. In a weird way, Fahrenheit 11/9 is almost like a sequel to all of Moore’s previous movies (even incorporating footage from most of them), and it works. The subjects are powerful and worth revisiting. Entire sequels would’ve been too much and it’s not as if all the themes that Moore has examined throughout his career didn’t directly lead to Trump in the first place. He’s not forcing the connections.
All of this crescendos in an intense finale in which Moore compares Trump’s abuse of power to that of other authoritarian dictators, even going so far as to play audio of a Trump rally under footage of a Hitler rally. Is it a bit easy and does it draw on comparisons that have been made before? Well, sure. But this isn’t a movie aimed at political junkies obsessed with tearing down Trump. A variety of media satirists do better versions of all the techniques Moore pioneered. This stuff isn’t hard to find.
However, Moore is and has always been a bit of a populist. He makes movies for those who don’t follow the news as intensely as himself, but who are curious. There’s nothing wrong with that and Michael Moore remains pretty damn good at his shtick after all these years. Hopefully the movie will be seen by viewers who need it most, rather than merely preaching to the converted. Despite all of the obvious Michael Moore pitfalls, Fahrenheit 11/9 is the director’s strongest film since the last one he made with a similar title.