Michael Moore is always mad about something. In Fahrenheit 11/9 his rage encompasses myriad topics and they’re all labeled Donald Trump. Nothing new here. Detractors of the current U.S. president are legion and the sins he’s guilty of are already well-known and debated nightly by anyone who watches MSNBC. But the remarkable thing about Michael Moore—the reason he’s become the most famous and successful documentary filmmaker in American movies today—is the tireless passion with which he assaults injustices and wrongdoings with a never-ending sense of humor. He’s funny, even when you disagree with his agenda.
FAHRENHEIT 11/9 ★★★
Fahrenheit 11/9 is a sequel (sort of) to the immensely popular Fahrenheit 9/11. The victim—er, subject—of that one was George W. Bush, who, in retrospect and compared to the current occupant of the White House with the orange pudding on his head, seems like a choir boy. The title refers to the day after candidate Trump was elected president, Nov. 9, a date that will live in infamy in the hearts of millions as the day when the country began to lose its moral compass.
Moore catalogues the morass of resulting problems, including rampant racism, gun violence, school shootings, the growing abuse of women, the loss of civil rights, the blatant rape of the U.S. Constitution, the vicious disregard of freedom of the press, and everything else that’s wrong with the country today, blaming it all on You Know Who and the Republicans who follow him.
In most of his broadsides, the director is right. But like most of his incendiary docs, he fails to fully investigate both sides of the issues, overlooking or fudging the facts to cry “Hypocrisy!” whenever it suits him. That being said, I still applaud his courage and wit while he does it.
And so the topics he tackles are as amusingly observed as they are familiar. Joining the media attention directed to Trump’s stupid mistakes and pathological lies, Moore compares the President to Adolf Hitler, but in fairness it must be pointed out that he is equally unsparing in his assaults on Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and other Democrats, his disillusionment with Bernie Sanders as a potential savior who failed, and the reasons he cites for Hillary Clinton’s loss despite winning the popular vote. Most of Moore’s cynicism is politically valid, but the irony is that the best section of Fahrenheit 11/9 involves his return to Flint, Michigan, his hometown and the scene of his best film, Roger and Me (1989).
Unraveling the reasons for the city’s calamitous unsafe-water crisis and placing the blame on corrupt civic officials has a piercing effect. You can’t help but feel your blood begin to boil and your throat run dry when Moore cogently blames Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder for shifting pure drinking water in four predominantly black cities from the purity off Lake Huron to the highly polluted Flint River, resulting in the widespread lead poisoning of thousands of children. Similarly, the film’s expansion to include the Parkland High School massacre is deeply moving. But although the editing and archival footage are clever, the insertion of striking teachers and the dubbing of Hitler’s voice at a mass Trump rally where protestors were beaten and killed all seem peripheral. Conversely, his kidney punch against the Electoral College as a demented anachronism is right on target and worthy of a well-deserved “Bravo!”
More than two hours is too long to sit through any documentary, but in the end, the film works because it makes you think beyond a narrow parameter of all that misleading and confusing right wing dogma served like junk food on Fox News. It might not be Michael Moore’s most cogent film, but Fahrenheit 11/9 is the inspired work of a true American purist, a cautionary warning about how to end a dictatorship and return America to the dream of patriotism. Listing the parallels between Fascism and the current elusion of eroding Democracy, the film makes a point that is terrifyingly cognizant. Praying for an American revolution to stomp out a corrupted system on Election Day, the only way to make American great again, Michael Moore insists, is to vote. If we don’t start taking our elections seriously, we’ll continue to get the kind of government we deserve.