You’ll cry laughing at Michael Moore’s new doc Fahrenheit 11/9, an unmissable provocation about the rise and rise of Donald J. Trump that should help get out the vote in November better than any limp recruitment outreach. One of Moore’s best and most incisively funny films — right up there with Roger & Me (1989), Bowling for Columbine (2002) and Sicko (2007) — his latest goes way past taking potshots at the Donald, though it does that with piercing intelligence and wounding wit. Rather, he wants to show us that this celebrity Commander-in-Chief didn’t just fall from the sky. The movie is Moore’s State of the Union message. And, damn, are we in trouble.
The title is a twist on Fahrenheit 9/11, the documentarian’s 2004 broadside against Dubya and the war in Iraq. The date 11/9 refers to the day in 2016 when Trump was officially declared the leader of this country, not according to the popular vote — which he lost to Hillary Clinton — but at the insistence of the Electoral College, a constitutional creation that Moore persuasively argues should be obliterated. He begins his film with clips showing the complete shock that overcame the populace (including Trump) when Hillary lost. Jay-Z and Beyonce held a benefit for her, along with rappers that Moore insists Hillary never heard of. George Clooney hit the airwaves to smugly declare that “Donald Trump will never be President.” The Orange One himself looked shell-shocked at his win. It was Moore, of all people, who saw it coming. In his home state of Michigan, he interviewed disillusioned voters fed up with losing jobs to workers outside our borders and who feared that a female President wouldn’t or couldn’t fix a broken system.
Moore suggests, only half-jokingly, that Trump got into the Presidential race initially when he learned that Gwen Stefani on The Voice made more money than he did on The Apprentice. He’d show NBC how popular he was … and now he’s showing us. Fahrenheit 11/9 presents a portrait of Trump as a bully, a liar, a racist, a hedonist, a father with a creepy closeness to his daughter Ivanka and a man who doesn’t even try to hide his baser instincts. The way that Moore sees it, Trump runs his country like one of his corporations, like a dictatorship. Cross him and you’re fired. He even compares Trump to Hitler, dubbing the President’s own words into the Fuhrer’s mouth.
Outrageous? You be the judge. Midway through the movie, the film switches gears to a situation in Michigan that pre-dated Trump. Specifically, it takes a close look at the election of Republican governor Rick Snyder, who Moore sees as the basis for a crisis that saw thousands of children poisoned with lead. Thanks to the politician, the water supply for the region’s largely black population was switched from the clean source of Lake Huron to the polluted Flint River. How did Snyder handle the situation? This former venture capitalist declared a state of emergency and replaced elected officials with his own team interested in building its own pipeline. In other words, he treated his state like a Trump business and did as he pleased. President Obama visited the shellshocked city and, before a battery of cameras, raised a glass of Flint water to his lips — an event that filled the filmmaker, previously a staunch Obama advocate, with shock and indignation. The gonzo docmaker’s previous stunts against Snyder, like spraying the grass outside the Governor’s home with Flint water and attempting to make a citizen’s arrest, pales in comparison to Obama’s act of betrayal.
Moore does looks with favor, however, on the progressives currently fighting the good fight on the frontlines: West Virginia teachers who went on strike and won even when their union advised conciliation; the survivors of the Parkland school shooting who organized a youth march against gun violence; fearless young political up-and-comers as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won the Democratic primary in the Bronx and Queens. But mostly, Fahrenheit 11/9 is his wake-up call to the 100 million citizens who did not vote in the last election. That’s the army he wants to see marshal its forces against indifference. Otherwise Trump, who has already declared his CEO displeasure at two-term limits, might just declare himself King. Yes, the doc is unwieldy at times, but it’s also that rare beast at the multiplex these days: a movie that matters. Moore is mad as hell in Fahrenheit 11/9. He doesn’t want a single one of us to take it anymore.