Writer: Michael Moore
Cast: Michael Moore, Donald Trump, Rick Snyder, Emma Gonzalez, Alexandria Occasio-Cortez, David Hogg
Running time: 128mins
What’s the story: Michael Moore looks across America to see what paved the way for Donald Trump becoming President.
What’s the verdict: Michael Moore’s explosive new film is a paean to the grassroots activism that has mobilised in the face of Republican and Democrat indifference and corruption.
For Donald Trump is not Moore’s only target. Indeed, he is correctly depicted as a conniving opportunist able to see self-gain in a wrecked system. The film presents an urgently argued account of the road he took to seize the White House.
Moore is master of editing found footage into a compelling narrative. We see self-satisfied news anchors and movie stars assuring audiences there will never be a President Donald Trump. How ratings hungry news channels unwittingly bolstered his appeal. How both main political classes left ordinary Americans behind as they pandered to big business.
The Republicans are skewered, but Moore reserves special venom for the Democrats. Shown aping Republican methods for a sniff of power and fudging leadership vote results so Hillary Clinton could beat Bernie Sanders, Fahrenheit 11/9 is a wake-up call to the party. Even Moore’s friends Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are not spared criticism. He pillories himself for going easy on Trump in a 1998 episode of Roseanne Barr’s talk show.
None of this is new, but the writer/director compiles it with such indignant bravura, it reveals how a slow-moving coup is most effectively done in plain sight.
Not as well-known over here is the tragedy of Flint’s poisoned water supply. The result of corporate palm-greasing overseen by Republican governor Rick Snyder, Flint’s water was switched from a clean to a dirty source while a needless construction project was occurring. Resultant lead poisoning and deaths are still unpunished.
The film’s most downbeat moment comes when President Obama is shown arriving and siding with Snyder, drinking the water and shattering hope in Flint.
Moore has no time for hope in Fahrenheit 11/9. Hope breeds passivity. He, and his movie, are energised by the teachers who successfully went on strike for better pay and benefits, inspiring other states to follow. Or progressive candidates who have challenged millionaire Democrats, Alexandria Occasio-Cortez being an obvious example.
Still dealing with the issue of gun violence 16 years after Bowling for Columbine, Moore also spends time with the Parkland survivors as they mobilise marches against lax gun laws.
As troubling as the Palme D’or winning Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore’s new movie also includes the same leavening sharp humour. His theory that Trump’s candidacy was a bargaining chip in a TV pay dispute over his salary vs. Gwen Stefani’s that massively backfired is given credence by how miserable Donald J. looked in victory.
News anchors who questioned Clinton’s gender affecting her ability to govern have their sexual misconduct splashed across the screen. Speaking of that impropriety we are also reminded that Trump has long been far too cosy with Ivanka.
A sequence revealing that the Hitler/Trump comparisons do bear scrutiny is one of the most audaciously executed movie moments of the year.
As this dark soap opera is still unfolding, Fahrenheit 11/9 arguably lacks a satisfying narrative structure, instead being a collection of well-argued polemics. But, the film’s power and message linger long in the mind.
Let’s hope Michael doesn’t have to make a sequel in 2020.