Writing a review for a Michael Moore documentary is a loaded a proposition as a film critic. His work comes preloaded with a conceit that “I am right. You are wrong. Here is why. Now watch me do something sneaky!”. It is meant to draw a line in the sand and tell you to choose. It is a formula that has served him well since his groundbreaking ROGER & ME. With that being said, that same formula doesn’t exactly mirror the times we live in; but with FAHRENHEIT 11/9 (11/9 representing the date that Donald J. Trump was named president-elect) Moore takes this conceit one step further.
The film begins with the assumption that recent history has already proved Moore correct and instead poses 2 questions about the current Commander-in-Chief and the political climate we live in: ”How the f**ck did we get here and, most importantly, how the f**ck do we get out of it?” Half of me wants to say,”Fuck you, man”, while the other half thinks, “I gotta respect the balls on this guy”. After all he gets away with it… Every. Single. Time.
So what is this film about? How do you answer those questions? Well you start by blaming the origin of President Trump’s ascendancy on Gwen Stefani (really?!). The argument is purely circumstantial, but why not? It sounds really good. Then you follow the timeline. Announcement. Primaries. Hillary being smug. Republican convention. Young people hugging Bernie. Hillary being smug. Bernie conceding Democratic nomination. Pundits predicting “Never Trump”. Election day. Trump wins. Pundit’s eat words. Hillary supporters cry. Trump and company look like a depressed but proper Third Reich. Megyn Kelly: “Michael Moore called it all along”.
This all sounds so cynical, but this is actually where Michael Moore begins to shine. Mainly because unlike many of his earlier works he doesn’t tow the party line unless you are counting youth (which he might be). From here on out everyone gets thrown under the American Time Traveling Shit Show bus. Reagan, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Rick Snyder, Obama and even Bernie a bit. This is very much part of the charm of the film once we get past the fact that we are watching a filmmaker that wears his politics on his sleeve. Michael Moore feels like a true patriot. Trump is painted as merely a figurehead of a problem that has long existed in this country, but a dangerous figurehead.
Then it seems as if Moore goes off the rails, but this is when Moore is actually working at his best. The whole movie pivots to the Flint water crisis. Initially it felt very self serving until it becomes apparently clear how Flint really has become a perfect metaphor. Seemingly random, but absolutely necessary. I won’t go into specifics, because there are treasures to be found here.
I won’t say this is the best film of the year. Not by a long shot. It is not even Michael Moore’s best film. What it does do is show a potential future not unlike our past. No one party is to blame, yet they all are. No one institution is to blame, yet they all are. There are people that want money….popularity….power. Sometimes as a nation we get in their way, and maybe we should.