Moore manages to balance the outrageousness of the Trump Presidency with both bleak nihilism and futuristic optimism.
In a politically divided America, we have not been short on media consumption regarding hottakes on the current President. There are a plethora of documentaries from Netflix originals to HBO specials, in which the subject matter involves the dissection and utter confusion of how Donald Trump got into The White House in 2016. Michael Moore dives back into his confronting style of investigative documentary journalism with Fahrenheit 11/9, one of Moore’s most anticipated features since his last outing in 2015 (Where to Invade Next). Moore has shined light on American politics before and you could even argue that all his films have very strong political undertones. Moore’s choice of subject matters always relate back to how the American government handles its nation’s current climate or how it got to be that way. So we know he’s in his wheelhouse of blended, ironic comedy and shocking exposé of America when it came to his take on Trump, but what does it do differently in an oversaturated market of Trump-driven docos?
Fahrenheit 11/9 throws us right into it, with the first act showing the progression of events leading up to Trump’s win at the 2016 election. The scandals, the debates and the outrageousness of it all was all recounted. Moore uses this as a jumping off pad to dissect the Flint Water Crisis currently crippling the small town in Michigan, the teachers strike in West Virginia and gun violence from the perspective of teenagers in Florida. Moore creates a cohesive flow of events that all branches from the corruption and business mentality that has plagued the American government as of recent. After his chilling recap of Trump’s presidential rise, he begins the meat of his documentary with one question: “How the f**k did we get here?
The message of Moore’s film is how far can we and will we put up with America’s shady government before we make change. This is of course, in regards to Americans as us Australians can’t do a whole lot. I will preface that I am not the most up to date with America’s political atmosphere, having that said this film really enlightened me with the current climate on how America (the mostly Democratic side) feel about their leader. What was interesting is how reflective Moore was with regards to himself. Moore had a moderate history with Trump himself and his associates, recalling his joint interview with Trump on the Roseanne Barr show and how Jared Kushner was involved with his 2007 film Sicko. Moore is aware of his past and his narration foretells his regret that Trump forced him to hold back in that 90’s interview, or that he felt Kushner was a stand up guy. It added this film with a little more personal weight than most other documentaries out there.
Moore holds no punches, with the likes of Governor Rick Snyder truly getting his comeuppance as Moore exposes his criminally horrid scheme of “purposefully” poisoning Flint’s water supply. But as I said, holds no punches as even Bill Clinton and Barack Obama get knocked down a peg (and deservingly so). For a supposedly Trump-centric doco, Moore shares his criticism with whom he sees fit. Having said all this, Moore’s message is surprisingly uplifting. The last third or so focus on rising young politicians who want change and how even the children of middle class America have a voice. The teenaged organised “March for Our Lives” against gun violence paired with his optimistic depiction of a new and progressive government showed that America has not lost hope.
Moore’s film has a balance of bleak nihilism and hopeful optimism. It works for most of it, however it sometimes can jar moments. This also goes for his comedy. It works when he says Gwen Stefani is to blame for Trump’s rise to presidency, and it confuses when he plays a Trump rally audio over archive footage of Hitler. I am in no position to critique American politics as it has never been my strongest suit, however for a Moore documentary, it makes an emotionally informative experience.