Thursday, October 4, 2018

FAHRENHEIT 11/9 (2018)

Rated:  R

STARS: Michael Moore, America
DIRECTOR: Michael Moore
GENRE: Documentary

You pretty much know what you're going to get with a Michael Moore film. Hard hitting, wickedly humorous satire that will bite you on the ass if you're the butt of it. That's what I was expecting in his new documentary, Fahrenheit 11/9 (not to be confused with his earlier film, Fahrenheit 9/11...11/9/17 being the date when it was confirmed that Donald Trump had been elected president). And as Moore states so directly at the beginning, this film attempts to answer the question: How in the f**k did we get here?

I think that's the only time I even grinned during this movie. Moore strikes a deliberately somber tone here, and there is dirge-like music that seems ever present in the background, so you'll make no mistake where he is coming from. Because his message is that time is running out. That would be the time we have left to save our democracy--or what passes for one here in the USA--before we slide down that slippery slope into fascism. 

You're expecting it to be a full-blown hit piece on Trump, which it starts out to be, and then the road takes a detour to Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan and it becomes a hit piece on Governor Rick Snyder, whom Moore holds ultimately responsible for the polluted water crisis there.  He makes a compelling case, and it makes you wonder how this man stayed in office. 

The democrats don't go unscathed either, earning Moore's scorn primarily for how the Hillary Clinton forces rigged the nomination process in her favor. There is plenty of blame to go around for how and why we got to where we are today. 

Before he's done, Moore will hit on racism, gun violence, the loss of civil liberties, freedom of the press and more, while tying it all in with Trump again. But the juxtaposition of a Trump rally with a Hitler rally will add fuel to his critics who have branded and dismissed him as a radical.

 We revisit the enormous march on Washington that resulted from the Parkland high school shootings, and the ballsy kids who organized it and spoke so eloquently at the rally. It's a powerful thing to watch on the big screen, and it strikes the hopeful tone (there's always one near the end of a Michael Moore film) of people power in action. But this time it comes with a dire caveat: Time is running out.

Grade:  B + 


Let me start out by saying I'm apolitical to a fault. I'm also a big Michael Moore fan. I heard him speak once a few years back at a film festival in Sedona, AZ and love his acerbic wit. That being said, my biggest complaint with Fahrenheit 11/9 is its length. Come on, Michael... Two hours and eight minutes of dire warnings would make even the most rabid anti Trumpster squirm. I realize he had a lot of territory to cover. But audiences get weary after awhile....

Still, I must give this Michigan native high marks for his use of background music. My favorite bit (and this won't ruin the movie for you) was at the beginning. The music he chose for Hillary awaiting victory was uplifting, hip and high-spirited. Then, as Election Night progressed, we cut to Donald Trump somberly walking out on stage, accompanied by an equally somber family, to give his acceptance speech. What music did Michael choose for this moment? The famous aria from Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci." A brilliant move on his part!

But the movie is misleading. Even the poster with with a pudgy Trump hitting a golf ball and the subtitle "Tyrant, Liar, Racist, A Hole In One" makes you think it's going to be a hatchet job on our 45th president. Far from it. Instead, it's a hatchet job on the state of our country. Not a message that lends itself to humor. And I sorely missed that aspect of Michael's personality.

I also felt the ending was weak. I won't go into detail (out of respect for those folks who want to react in their own way) but for me it ended with a whimper rather than a bang.

Grade: B -