PLOT Michael Moore’s latest recaps Donald Trump’s road to the presidency.
RATED R (language)
BOTTOM LINE A compendium of old criticisms and oft-expressed outrage.
In “Fahrenheit 11/9,” Michael Moore’s look back at Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, the liberal firebrand-filmmaker asks a question: How did this happen? Moore offers a complicated but familiar answer that includes a reaction to eight years of President Barack Obama, a rigged Democratic primary and a lazy campaign by Hillary Clinton. As a result, Trump, whose divisive rhetoric would have horrified Americans a few years previous, managed to tap a hidden vein of anger and frustration large enough to carry him to the White House.
A short review of Moore’s film could consist of three words: We knew that.
Named for the day Trump’s election win was officially announced, “Fahrenheit 11/9” is Moore’s attempt to update his box-office success “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004), a broadside against President George W. Bush. That film at least connected some interesting dots between the media, big business and the false claims that led America into the Iraq War. Virtually nothing in “Fahrenheit 11/9,” however, qualifies as new information or even an illuminating insight into the Trump phenomenon. It’s a recital of old criticisms and gripes, leavened with bits of optimism for a Democratic comeback.
Moore can certainly be a canny sociopolitical observer. As he reminds us, he correctly predicted Trump’s win months before the election. Moore can also be a brave and dogged documentarian, as he proved in his still impressive 1989 debut “Roger & Me,” about the closure of General Motors’ Flint, Michigan, plant. His skills, though, are not much in evidence here. Instead, he rehashes the same unflattering Trump stories we’ve known for years, from the “birther” campaign against Obama to the repeated sexual comments about Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
Moore, a Michigan native, deserves some kind of award for constantly raising awareness of Flint’s horrific water crisis, but that subject has nothing to do with Trump and does not belong here. Neither, really, do the Parkland student activists or the striking schoolteachers of West Virginia, inspirational though they may be. If Moore really wanted to explain how Trump became president, he might have spent some screen time talking with Trump supporters. Instead, “Fahrenheit 11/9” just feels like comfort food for the Resistance.