Director Michael Moore still compelling, infuriating and essential viewing
“Fahrenheit 11/9” is ostensibly Michael Moore's Donald Trump documentary, strategically dropped in the run-up to the most important midterm election in the history of the nation.
And to answer the obvious question, yes, there's an aspect of preaching to the choir. Fortunately, there's more to the film than that. In fact, there's a lot less Trump than you may expect, for those who think their blood pressure can take no more.
No, “Fahrenheit” is not going to sway your uncle who won't take his MAGA hat off at family dinner, which is fine; Moore has been so vilified by that crowd for decades that they wouldn't listen anyway.
But it's also alternately funny, infuriating, heartbreaking and even challenging. If I'm a member of this choir, there were moments I found myself disagreeing with what Moore was presenting. I wanted to rebut the screen.
But I can't say this film was exactly what I expected, and I think that's a good thing.
For better or worse, Moore doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to his signature style. His narration floats from wit to gravitas, and he's prone to moments so self-aggrandizing they don't much help his point.
Years of attacks on his films and character have seemingly made Moore lean into being a bogeyman of the right.
After a “how did we get here?” recap of election night that should probably come with a trigger warning, Moore does try to get at that deeper question of the road that led to a presidency that at one time seemed like an unthinkable joke.
Perhaps out of mercy, Moore spends only a fraction of the two-hour-plus running time on Trump. Moore's target audience already has strong feelings about the president, right?
So “Fahrenheit” also explores some of the motivations for America's abysmal voter turnout. Trump seems to be a logical end result of the failures of democracy without participation.
Moore keys in on the Flint water crisis as an epicenter of a group of citizens who feel forgotten. He revisits the gun issues of “Bowling for Columbine” through the lens of the students of Stoneman Douglas and celebrates their activism.
Perhaps most soberingly, he lays out a plausible path to an America that slowly (or not so slowly) becomes authoritarian.
And, yes, Hitler is evoked. If it's a cinematic manifestation of Godwin's law, it's also meant to be a call to action.
As flawed and sometimes infuriatingly over-simplified as “Fahrenheit 11/9” is at times, I can't argue with its emotional impact, or even just its importance in the moment.
If you're even thinking of not voting in this election, see this movie first.