Years ago, Michael Moore sat at the same table as Donald Trump when they were both scheduled as guests on (of all people) Roseanne Barr’s daytime talk show. Knowing what we know today, the implausibility of that image is amusing, but Moore wasn’t laughing. Trump, nervous to face Moore’s imminent firestorm of a debate, refused to be a part of the interview until the controversially outspoken filmmaker agreed to tame himself. Moore agreed and traded his pressing questions for cheap jokes. In voiceover, he tells those of us watching Fahrenheit 11/9 that he was shocked to learn that Trump enjoyed his first film, Roger & Me, which steamrolled over General Motors then CEO Roger B. Smith. Trump then said, “I hope he never does one about me.”
Nobody would want to be on the receiving end of one of Michael Moore’s investigations, but after watching his latest explosive movie (the poster of which features the President teeing off into a mushroom cloud), you’ll understand why Trump was particularly wary. At its core, 11/9 is a compilation of anger, not directed entirely at the country’s current administration, but which certainly attempts to answer the most popular question of 2016: “how the f*** did this happen?”
It turns out the answer is not as simple as Hilary over Bernie, or the obsessive media coverage, or even the Russians. Moore bulldozes his way through the events of that election night – “the sure thing” – and what led to it, painting a picture not of a tyrant slipping into power, but rather of a society that threw the banana peel down. The republicans are to blame. The democrats are to blame. Beyond that, we’re told once again that the largest political party in the country are non-voters. Conservatives, liberals, protestors, counter protesters, bigots, and even Gwen Stefani are all points-of-interest on Moore’s extensive timeline.
There was a bitter taste in my mouth as I watched journalists and celebrities laugh at the idea of a “President Trump.” I remember laughing with them, jokingly stating that the one good thing that would come from a Trump victory would be the deactivation of his Twitter account…
Moore did warn us back then not to dismiss “Real America,” the silent majority of the angry working class who are portrayed in a not so glamorous light here. He reminds us early on that he made that warning, and in doing so, separates himself from the rest of the nation’s accused. To me, it felt cowardly, but I suppose that’s the problem with “everyone’s at fault” proclamations: in their nature, no one is qualified to make them.
But regardless of that tiny paradox, Moore manages to effectively display and elaborate upon his disgust, which is also directed at the water crisis continuing to face his hometown of Flint, Michigan. The city’s water is famously polluted with a deadly amount of lead. It’s a years-long scandal riddled in political corruption that has yet to positively settle. Moore’s method of addressing the issue is by first popping into Governor Rick Snyder’s office to conduct a citizen’s arrest. When that fails, Moore hops into a water truck and sprays the governor’s lawn with the poisonous water served to his people.
If the giant, toxin-spraying hose didn’t give it away, Moore is quite the showman – I guess that’s why Fahrenheit 9/11 leads the all-time documentary box office by a margin of over $40 million. However, 11/9 feels much more urgent; with this film, he campaigns alongside President Obama (who Moore also calls into question) in marketing the upcoming midterms as the most important in our lifetime.
Though 11/9 has an abundance of “America is doomed” moments, Michael Moore seems conflictingly convinced that there are certain Americans who can pull us out of this hole. Hope points towards the younger generations of political activists, including congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as the very much active Parkland shooting survivors, all of whom were unable to vote in 2016.
The scenes dedicated to these young leaders and Flint’s polluted water are intoxicating; they make up the bulk of the film’s strength. As a not particularly political person, I was shocked to see how much more there was behind the familiar headlines. The Trump parts are less poignant; Moore is aware that a solely Trump tale would add little to the conversation.
With that said, President Trump and his constituents are surely not going to appreciate Fahrenheit 11/9 – I expect to see an array of angry tweets here shortly. One rather predictable sequence sets up a comparison not lost on many Americans. We are told that there are no perfect comparisons in history, but I shuddered when I learned that the Nazi Party didn’t win the popular vote either. I doubt I’ll be the only one.
Michael Moore points all 17 of his fingers in all directions during his latest ferocious, if scrambled film, surprisingly avoiding individual attacks and instead convincingly describing what role we all played in this globally-recognized disaster.