Film Review: ‘Michael Moore in TrumpLand’ Is Impassioned and Timely

trumplandLiterally just a few days ago, this timely film, to our knowledge, did not even exist. Michael Moore‘s latest movie, the one man show “Michael Moore in TrumpLand” was shot less than two weeks ago and locked picture earlier in the week. I bring this up mainly to showcase what an insane turnaround this is. The fact that this is a compelling and impassioned plea for voter sanity only makes it all the more impressive. Now, it’s not on the level of Moore’s best work, and likely will have a negligible effect on the election, much like “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Still, it’s always a pleasure to watch Moore make films with his heart, as much as his head. Less a documentary than a think piece, it’s a new gear for the filmmaker/provocateur.

“Michael Moore in TrumpLand” is another rather timely effort of Moore’s, as mentioned above. His goals are as clear as ever, but the success of this movie is that it can live on beyond this election. In a way, it will function as a time capsule for the years to come. One way or another, the outcome in November will shape the country and the world. In the weeks beforehand, Moore was there to discuss it. It’s consistently engaging, funny, and occasionally even moving. There are visual rough edges and a rushed sense, but the good very much outweighs the bad.

Taking the form of a one man show, it shows Moore performing in front of a crowd in a small Ohio town. Initially, he makes a little fun of Donald Trump, but mostly focuses on trying to understand the appeal of this candidate. Then, it begins to transition into speculation about what Trump would actually do in office. Finally, the third act is where the true ambition of Moore comes into play. He begins to make the case for Hillary Clinton, coming from him, a Bernie Sanders supporter. This is his attempt to turn out the vote and perhaps even change a few hearts and minds.

In this section, he focuses on what she’s done, who she is, and why you don’t have to like her in order to respect her. There’s even an attempt to put forward that she has more in common with Pope Francis than you might think. Through it all, Moore does a bit of his old shtick. His remarks are often tinged with his jokey style. There’s a few previously shot comedic ads. There’s also a story about his in-person interactions with the Clintons. Some of his stories don’t work as well as intended, but his point drives home in the end. Even if you don’t agree with his point of view, it’s a surprisingly rational perspective, not to mention a timely one.

la-et-mn-michael-moore-trumpland-hillary-clinton-election-movie-watch-20161019-snapMoore is giving off a slightly different vibe this time around. He’s not doing the gimmicks or the grandstanding that made him famous in his documentaries. Here in this movie, he spends a lot of time just behind a lectern, talking with his audience. For really the first time ever, this is Moore reaching across the aisle. He packed the crowd with a mix of disaffected Democrats, Trump supporters/Republicans, and those thinking of voting third party or staying at home. Especially considering how recently this was filmed, it’s a timely decision, as opposed to just holding court with his fans. The effect is palpable too, as you can see folks react to his points. The look of the project is a little rough, but again, it was made in less than two weeks. This is more about Moore the performer and writer than it is about Moore the director.

In case there was any doubt, “Michael Moore in TrumpLand” is probably not an Oscar contender. It’s getting a qualifying run, but that’s just in the name of Academy Award consideration. If “Where to Invade Next” couldn’t get a Best Documentary Feature nomination, this one won’t either. Now, that’s not a knock on the quality of this flick. It’s just not as polished or as baity as voters prefer. Timely? Yes. That isn’t enough though. Barring a surprise, it will probably even be left off of the initial short list that whittles the contenders down. That doesn’t make it any less worth seeing, but it’s something to take note of.

Overall, with “Michael Moore in TrumpLand,” Moore is attempting to once again influence an election. It’s undeniably timely, but it’s also undeniably propaganda. Here’s the thing though. By not hiding that, Moore is allowed to make this attempt. There’s no cover of objectivity. That being said, Moore does reach across the aisle in order to not just preach to the converted. Voters inclined to support Clinton are obviously more likely to seek this one out than Trump backers, but that’s a shame. Especially if you’re somehow on the fence, you should see this film. “Michael Moore in TrumpLand” has something to say, and it may not be what you’d expect.

“Michael Moore in TrumpLand” is currently screening in limited release.

GRADE: (★★★)