Michael Moore in TrumpLand
MICHAEL MOORE IN TRUMPLAND, documentary, not rated, Jean Cocteau Cinema, 3 chiles
Michael Moore’s latest, which amounts to an impassioned pitch for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, was put together in a couple of weeks and rushed to market with just a few days remaining until America goes to the polls to decide the most contentious and significant presidential race in memory. It will have a short shelf life.
Moore visits a theater in Clinton County, Ohio, in the belly of the Trumpian beast, to perform a stage show layered with gags and showmanship, but at its heart it’s a sincere and eloquent argument for Hillary. The theater marquee declares “Trump Voters Welcome,” and the live audience that plays a large part in this documentary seems fairly evenly split between Trump loyalists and a Moore crowd. In the balcony, there’s a section for Mexicans (or “people who look Mexican”) that Moore surrounds with a wall, and he tells them they’ll have to pay to get out; there’s another section for Muslims, whom he monitors with a drone circling overhead.
Moore addresses disgruntled white male voters with empathy and compassion for their grievances against the establishment and for their decline as the major force in the American social fabric. He acknowledges that Trump is “the human Molotov cocktail” they’ve been waiting for and that a Trump victory would be “the biggest ‘[expletive] you!’ in human history.” But he points out that a lot of Brits used the Brexit vote as an anger management tool and woke up to profound buyer’s remorse when it unexpectedly passed.
Moore goes on to build a case for Hillary, for whom he admits he’s never voted. He cites her youthful idealism and lifetime of public service, her extraordinary capability and intelligence, her toughness, and the steep slope of sexism that she and women of her generation have had to climb and are still battling. He’s entertaining, and mostly very funny, but what he has to say is deadly serious. And, by the time he’s done, even some of the clenched-jawed conservative white males in the audience are nodding in agreement — and there are more than a few eyes glistening with moisture.
His presentation is not without flaws and clumsy moments, but it’s an extraordinary performance, if one that will appeal mostly to the people already in the choir. The target is largely the Bernie-or-bust crowd that can’t get over its media-fueled distrust of Hillary. It could probably sway some of them, if they’re willing to part with the high cost of a movie ticket in this campaign’s brutal final days. It should have been released on TV or the internet for widest possible access.
On Wednesday, nobody will care. — Jonathan Richards
The Donald and me: Michael Moore