Movie Review – Fahrenheit 11-9

Principal Cast : Michael Moore, Donald Trump, Rick Snyder.
Synopsis:  A look at the rise of Donald Trump and the slow, moral decay of the United States of America.

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Michael Moore is angry. Very angry. The rise of populist racist and demagogue businessman Donald Trump, now the 45th President Of The United States and one of the most polarising figures on the globe today, is the focus of Moore’s latest opus, Fahrenheit 11/9, a film which takes its title from the date of Trump’s 2016 election win (as well as a mild reference to Moore’s similarly titled film about the events of September 11, 2001) and sets about dismantling the ails of modern America under the orange leader, from the fate of residents in Flint, Michigan – Moore’s ubiquitously poverty-stricken hometown, where the fresh water was turned off to all residents leaving their remaining supply so polluted they’ve been subsisting on bottled water ever since – to the grand stage of his country’s political structures and their failings, all with the scathing bitterness and sanguine tone of Moore’s accompanying narration.

As a documentary auteur, Michael Moore is often an acquired taste. His usual themes are generally savage indictments on leadership structures within government or business, his manner is self-assured yet absolutely biting with intent, and his blunt-force-trauma approach to his subject matter is uniformly entertaining as much as it is obviously slanted to a specific demographic. Fahrenheit 11/9 will appeal mainly to Moore’s fans and those of a left-wing persuasion, but even they will be shocked to see some of the footage in Moore’s latest feature.

Unlike his usual films, Fahrenheit 11/9 takes a scattered kitchen-sink approach to the material, with so much controversy, damage and scandal to cover there’s no real central theme other than to suggest that perhaps America is just totally fucked. Moore brandishes his laser-like camera on not just Trump and the Republican Party, but also on the Democrats (they “like to lose”) and even President Obama, who shows up to make a high-profile stand in drinking the poisoned water from Flint but barely sips it instead. He also pillages Rick Snyder, former Michigan Governor, takes aim at the US military, the Electoral College that gave Trump his win against the popular vote (perhaps the most damning point in all of Moore’s vitriol here), makes a point of associating The Donald with the sexualisation of his daughter Ivanka (ugh, just creepy), and even meets the #MarchForOurLives students from the Marjorie Stoneman Jackson school shooting.

He unearths a whistleblower in the Flint water poisoning scandal, who categorically states that Rick Snyder and his administration knowingly hid results of lead poisoning in the city’s population, which is just heartbreaking, and goes to point out that the local car making plant in Flint was allowed to hook back up to the fresh water supply as the “poisoned” water was damaging their brand. Moore meets the also very angry Michael Ojeda, a former serviceman turned political advocate who is running against the formerly unopposed incumbent member of congress in his district – Moore namechecks several others who were doing similar things across the country – and recounts his brief encounter with the future president on a talkshow in the 00’s where he was asked by producers not to say anything mean or nasty about his fellow guest. Moore’s save indictment of both Trump and both political parties in his country are the foundation of his assertion of America’s chief ills. True to his nature, Moore doesn’t attempt to offer alternatives or solutions, he’s content to let the horror of America’s failing systems do the talking for him.

Saturated with grief and an abhorrence of the moral decay surrounding his country, accompanied by his typically mournful narration and pointed facts (unlike, say, Trump), setting aside the obvious bias inherent in any project Moore undertakes, Fahrenheit 11/9 has plenty to say that’s irrefutable about the current state of the United States. The overriding feeling is one of hopelessness, a sense of impending anarchy sweeping the nation with the rise of racism, anti-semitism, nationalism and Nazism, an accelerant to the bonfire of social morays enveloping the nation. The film should come with a trigger warning: it depicts the Charlottesville terrorist car attack, and also briefly shows raw footage from the Stoneman Douglas massacre, including bodies in hallways, that make as scathing a point of America’s fall as is humanly possible. It’s uncomfortable viewing, to say the least.

Despite an all-over-the-shop approach that doesn’t have the razor-wire focus of, say, Bowling For Columbine, the effect of Fahrenheit 11/9 is one of complete and utter horror at what is transpiring in America today. The glory and prosperity of life under Obama, and the stark contrast between his statesmanship and the utter dumpster fire his successor’s administration has become, have never been more keenly felt outside of America’s insular borders, if only more American’s would see it for themselves. Moore’s film is a thunderclap of anger at the Cult of Trump and the breakdown of perceptible goodness in America’s fabric, and strikes with the brutality of a sledgehammer in a glass factory.

© 2018, Rodney Twelftree. All rights reserved.