Donald Trump seems like a perfect target for Michael Moore. After all, he was one of the few warning that Trump could win the election. He even made a documentary about it called “Michael Moore in Trumpland.” And yet, despite the title, “Fahrenheit 11/9” is not an attempt to prevent Trump’s re-election like “Fahrenheit 9/11” was with George W. Bush. Instead, this documentary is as much about how we got to the point of a President Trump, along with where the hell we go from here. It’s one of Moore’s best documentaries and, in a sad twist, it’s also his least hopeful. The optimism he had in “Where to Invade Next” is gone. He may again be preaching to the converted, but this time, his message is that the damage has already been done. It’s a downer, but also an apt look at where we are in 2018.
In many ways, the message of “Fahrenheit 11/9” is to take to the streets. The normal rules of politics don’t apply anymore. Moore echoes this with a focus, in the one triumphant segment, on the student activists of Parkland, as well as the striking teachers in West Virginia. He’s giving a full-throated indictment of the status quo on both sides. Normal candidates picked by party leaders no longer need to apply for Moore. He’d sooner see Tom Hanks or Oprah Winfrey lead the Democratic ticket in 2020. Fair warning, he even goes after President Obama here. No one in the establishment is safe. Moore is taking a flamethrower to things. In his view, it’s now the only way to save the country.
The first section is indeed Trump-related, beginning in the lead up to the 2016 Presidential election. Hillary Clinton is seen as a shoe-in, so Moore asks what happened. Then, it’s on to a look at who Trump is, from his shady business deals to his creepy obsession with his daughter, all the way to how it’s actually Gwen Stefani‘s fault that Trump ended up running for President. This is the most amusing section of the film, mainly because we’ve been dulled to the shock of the event. It’s vintage Moore, but it’s only the start. He has lots more to offer.
After a quick takedown of the sexual predator men who obsessed over Clinton’s emails, it’s on to his most devastating segment. This focuses on Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan. There, Governor Rick Snyder essentially poisoned the town with contaminated water, then did nothing about it. Well, he did give the car manufacturing plant the safe water, since they’re a corporation and not poor people. Aside from Moore doing his traditional grandstanding (trying to arrest Snyder and then spraying his lawn with the poisoned water), it’s overly serious. He even has a whistleblower who shows that the government tried to get her to lie about how all the children in town were being given lead poisoning. This is where he’s most effective in raising your ire.
The final section shows what the revolution might look like. It’s ordinary people taking back the country. We see the Parkland High School survivors crusade for gun safety. Teachers in West Virginia and other poor states go on strike to keep the bare minimum of benefits. Then, there are the everyday citizens inspired to run, in part by Trump, but also in an attempt to affect real change. These include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as a few subjects in the doc. This is where Moore wants you to be inspired. However, the doc does end on a far less optimistic note than usual.
One of the most interesting things about “Fahrenheit 11/9” is that Moore partly blames himself for the whole thing as well. He shows clips of him going easy on Trump in an interview conducted by Roseanne Barr, as well as Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner praising him (Jared even speaks!) while investing in his works. These are regrets for the man. In part, that’s what makes the documentary seem so urgent, as well as his least uplifting. It’s not about fixing a problem. It’s about trying to stop a disaster from getting any worse.
“Fahrenheit 11/9” is undeniably powerful and urgent, but it’s also uneven and occasionally unfocused. Individual moments within those above sections don’t land as hoped. Then, there’s a part centered on how the Trump era has ties to Adolf Hitler and his reign in Germany. While it’s not a one to one Hitler to Trump comparison, but one about how similar rhetoric can take us down that path. It’s a hit or miss part of the flick and slows down the momentum. Moore is at his best when he’s looking closely at something smaller. Going broad in scope dulls his sharp scalpel.
What Moore wants you to take out of the documentary is that you need to get involved. Make sure you vote. Run for local office. If not, you’ll give in to despair. Follow in the footsteps of David Hogg and the aforementioned Ocasio-Cortez. His point is that even potential saviors like Barack Obama can still let you down. It’s inherently what politicians do. Whether you agree or not, it’s hard not to see his point. The film leans hard on average Americans taking back the country. After all, as Moore states, the majority in America believe in liberal policies. So, why are they not the ones running things? According to him, the time is now to make this move, before it’s too late.
Moore has made some incredible documentaries in his time. “Fahrenheit 11/9” joins those ranks, standing alongside “Bowling for Columbine,” “Capitalism: A Love Story,” “Roger and Me,” and “Sicko.” His urgency is palpable. In getting angry and dialing back the humor, he has made something essential. The movie should inspire you to get involved, not because it’s inspiring in its material, but because it’s so urgent in its message. Moore’s opponents may claim he’s just a sore loser, but then again, they won’t be watching this either. Especially if you’ve been a fan of his work in the past, this is a must see.