R, 125 mins.
2018, R, 125 mins.
A documentary written and directed by Michael Moore
According to director Michael Moore, America and its political party system is royally screwed.
Early on in
his latest documentary FAHRENHEIT 11/9 he plainly asks viewers one
simple and blunt question about the current state of affairs in his home
fuck did this all happen?"
Moore has made a
career of out making documentaries the push buttons on multiple
social/cultural/political ills - whether it take the form of attacking big
business in ROGER AND ME, or gun
violence in BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, or universal health
care in SICKO or, hell, even capitalism
itself in CAPITALISM: A LOVE
STORY - but in his latest film he seems even more fired up and
angry than usual. FAHRENHEIT
11/9 takes its title in reference to the day Donald Trump was elected
president on November 9, 2016, but it's also a sly echo of Moore's famous
documentary about the George W. Bush administration and 9/11, FAHRENHEIT
9/11. To say
that Moore's latest doc is an all out attack on the Trump administration
would be putting it mildly, not to mention that one could say it's of the
shooting at fish in barrel variety of subject matter.
But FAHRENHEIT 11/9 is a bit more ambitious with laying its finger
wag of shame at multiple targets aside from Trump, which gives it a fairly
democratic focus, even when, regrettably, the doc sometimes lacks overall
cohesion and focus.
Moore is in classic form here as an impassioned, bitter, and
determined provocateur that does want to find out, in fact, how the fuck
America got so bad. To be
fair, a lot of his frequently humorous tirades are definitely directed at
Trump, but he also takes a rather multi-faceted approach in terms of
looking at a series of other mitigating factors that allowed for Trump's
unlikely rise to power, with his razor sharp satiric crosshairs pointed at
both political parties (in his mind, the Democrats and Republicans have
committed multiple egregious blunders over the years) and even he himself.
Beyond pointing out how flawed the whole political process has
evolved over the years, Moore also rightfully casts a light on the tragedy
of disenfranchised voters, who - through various forms of deplorable
strife that I'll allude to in a bit - don't see much hope in a party
system that doesn't have their back.
If anything, FAHRENHEIT 11/9 is sort of Moore's rallying cry to
arms for all citizens to get out there, vote, and make their voices heard.
Moore's doc opens
by showing us the whole preamble to Election Day in 2016, when just about
everyone with a pulse was predicting all out failure for Trump ever
becoming president (Moore shows ample footage of political pundits on news
programs sarcastically giggling at Trump's chances...and hysterically
shows a charmingly smug George Clooney at a movie press conference stating
"Trump will never become president").
We're then shown glimpses of Hilary Clinton's campaign
headquarters, evoking a collective vibe of flawless victory before the final
numbers ever came in. Then
the tallies start pouring in...and Trump starts taking key states...and
looks of absolute euphoria in the pro-Clinton crowds start turning to
teary-eyed anxiety. Then, as
history has already shown, shock ripped through the nation when Trump did
win, albeit because of the electoral college, a system that Moore rather
rightfully insists probably shouldn't even exist anymore, seeing as the
popular vote is a better indicator of fair democratic system as to whom
the people think should be in office.
And, yes, Clinton won the popular vote, as did Al Gore back in
Moore then takes
us on a journey of variables that allowed Trump's success, like a total
failure of Clinton's campaign to visit key states, and, in one hysterical
instance, even Gwen Stefani is propped up as a reason for Trump wanting to
run in the first place, which is a head scratching stretch (Moore
postulates that when Trump found out that NBC was paying her more for her
program compared to what he was getting for The Apprentice that was the
straw that broke the proverbial camel's back for him, which acted as a
catalyst for his political aspirations).
Moore doesn't let up on the Trump character assassination front,
though, as he persuasively paints a picture of the Commander-in-Chief that
we're all pretty familiar with now: A loud mouthed bully with a loose
grasp on history and the truth that also happens to have unhealthy
hedonistic impulses and some questionable stances on minorities and
immigrants. Perhaps even
creepier is a photo montage that Moore utilizes that displays, shall we
say, less than fatherly love Trump has with his daughter Ivana as she was
maturing into a woman.
takes some interesting detours after this, perhaps most intriguingly back
to Moore's birth town of Flint, Michigan, which has the horrible
misfortune of having countless numbers of its citizens forever made sick
by the contamination of their water supply, a process that was ostensibly
supported and initiated by Governor Rick Snyder.
Flint used to get its clean water supply from Lake Huron, but then
the Governor inexplicably decided to build an alternate pipeline that
would change the town's supply coming from the rather toxically polluted
Flint River. Then, when
people started growing ill, the former venture capitalist in Snyder
conveniently declared a state of emergency and abruptly replaced the
elected officials in charge with his own lackies...and this led to no
change. Despite all obvious
medical signs that pointed at the severe dangers of the drinking water in
Flint, Snyder wouldn't budge, but he did give one place in Flint the clean
Lake Huron water back: The local automobile plant whose reliance on the tainted
water was actually corroding their car parts on the assembly line.
It's all enough to make one sick.
Governor's actions are reprehensible enough, but Moore also fairly calls out his political heroes in the process too, like former President
Obama, who pledged to come to Flint to fix this horrible situation once
and for all, but only proceeded to use his appearance as a shady photo op
to show him drinking - or maybe just putting his lips up to - a glass
filled with Flint water while in front of the press' cameras and to the
shock and dismay of those that hoped he'd be their savoir. Moore's fist swinging indignation of Obama's handling of the
Flint crisis is used to show how a climate began to form of how jaded
voters felt ripped off by their political idols, leaving them feeling that
was of no consequence. As a
result, Moore also chastises blame for America's current predicament on
the roughly 100 million people that didn't cast their ballot in the fall
of 2016. Moore doesn't let
himself off of the hook either, especially when it comes to showing a TV
show appearance he had with both Trump and Roseanne Barr in the 90s, during which time
the filmmaking recounts that he played things too safely with the future
president and naively didn't take much stock in his future political
ironically, Trump is shown in the show clip saying that he admires Moore
as a filmmaker and hopes that he never makes a film about him someday.
Moore's not done
there, as his already crowded doc then segues into the plights of West
Virginia teachers living below the poverty line and struggling to strike
for better pay even when their unions advised them not to.
We then transition to the survivors of the Parkland School
shootings and to a famous group of students who fearlessly organized the
largest mass protest in U.S. history to admonish the current
administration - and past ones as well - for their lack of leadership in
dealing with gun control. I
think that this tangent most neatly ties into Moore's overall message here
with FAHRENHEIT 11/9 to plead with ordinary Americans to stand up, take
charge, springboard positive action with definable motives, and build
towards meaningful change. In
short, get Albert Finney-esque in NETWORK mad as hell and don't settle in
on taking it anymore. One of
the sadder undercurrents to the doc is the notion that Americans have
become so numbed into pathetic complacency and, as a result, have lost
such confidence in the ineffectual party system that people like Trump
being elected into office is hardly surprising.
That, and it has become alarmingly simple for millions of voters to
turn a blind eye to his corruptions, mostly because they're so many people
out there that simply don't give a damn.
If you're from Flint, as Moore informs us, and your children have
become poisoned by a fixable water contamination issue that multiple
politicians refuse to fix...what hope do you have moving forward?
FAHRENHEIT 11/9, as already mentioned, misses the mark of achieving the true greatness of Moore's early documentaries in terms of its frustratingly scattershot approach. Too often, Moore hops back and forth from one subject to the next a bit too arbitrarily and it takes an awfully long time for him to tie everything together to create a unifying whole. On top of that, some of his choices here seem desperate and ill advised, like a lengthy diatribe as to how Trump's administration is evolving considerably like Adolf Hitler's, which seems needlessly extreme and frankly out there, even by Moore's standards (there is, though, a brilliant juxtaposition of Moore showing a Hitler rally that's dubbed in with Trump's voice from one of his own rallies). I also thought that the whole section featuring Flint would have made a thoroughly riveting documentary all on its own and served as a direct sequel to ROGER AND ME. Perhaps FAHRENHEIT 11/9 had too much it wanted to say for one two hour feature and, as a negative consequence, it results in stifled momentum that could have been fixed with more editorial discipline.
Still, FAHRENHEIT 11/9 remains as compulsively watchable as any of Moore's best docs because, deep down, it tackles a variety of issues that he's deeply invested in, and his rabble rouser/grass roots appeal to get everyday people to get off their asses and do something to fix his country has universal appeal to just about any troubled nation. After all, in Moore's mind, if we don't vote and make our vote matter and instead just sit idly by and let elected officials do what they want at the expense of the little people...then we're all truly fucked.