MICHAEL MOORE IN TRUMPLAND (2016)
Featuring Michael Moore.
Written by Michael Moore.
Directed by Michael Moore.
Distributed by IMG Films. 71 minutes. Not Rated.
It’s been twelve years since Michael Moore last dipped his toes in electoral waters with Fahrenheit 9/11 (wow, has it really been that long?). In the years since, while the reliably lefty director has inevitably made his political viewpoints very well-known in his humorous documentary films, he has not tried to actively affect another American vote with his films, preferring to use them to promote other social issues.
Michael Moore in TrumpLand is kind of a sneak attack at the end of the most contentious election season in American history (and that is saying a LOT.) It was made quickly and quietly and the release was only announced a couple of weeks ago. Now, with less than three weeks before Election Day, Moore tosses out a bit of a hail Mary to try to get us all to get along.
In fact, Michael Moore in TrumpLand is not one of his traditional films, per se. It is mostly just a live performance of a one man show that Moore wrote to perform in the middle of the reddest section of swing state Ohio. Ironically, the theater is located in Clinton County, though as Moore points out, judging from all the Trump signs in the years it is not “Clinton country.”
Despite the title, the movie is not just one long attack on Donald J. Trump. In fact, honestly, the Republican candidate is not discussed here all that much at all. Moore figures, probably rightly so, that everyone has his own opinion on the short-fingered orange billionaire and reality show host. (Obviously, I do….) So what’s the point in getting stuck in the weeds with that?
So, instead Moore tries to bridge the gap with Trump supporters, trying to find a common ground with them. He did not want to just preach to the converted. He made sure the theater marquee read “Trump Voters Welcome.” He even teasingly separated a section in the balcony for Mexicans and Muslims, building a wall around the Mexicans and having a drone hovering over the Muslims so they can keep an eye on them. (I’m not sure if these Mexicans and Muslims were plants – I’d guess that they were – or just very good sports.)
Moore wanted to have a meeting of the minds, to find out why they are so angry. Why they want to “Make America Great Again.” In fact, find out when it stopped being great in the first place. Can we all discuss this? Because the decision that America is making will make waves for years, generations to come.
After all, he compares the Trump situation to the recent Brexit vote in England: “Trump’s election is going to be the biggest ‘fuck you’ ever recorded in human history. And it will feel good. For a day. Maybe a week. Possibly a month….”
But then, like Brexit, chances are buyer’s remorse is going to set in when you sit back and realize the circumstances of your act.
“You used the ballot as an anger management tool. And now you’re fucked.”
It’s funny, watching the crowd reactions early in the film, you can easily tell who is on board with him, or who is not sold: hands crossed in front of them, not smiling. However, as Moore uses humor to bring people together, a funny thing happens. You see less and less of the stone-face Rudy Giuliani types sitting rigid in their seats. Through self-deprecation and sheer relatability he has opened them up to a debate. He may not change their mind – but at least they may look at things a different way.
Then, he spends the rest of film making an offbeat sales pitch as to why people should not necessarily hate Hillary Clinton. Moore is not necessarily Hillary’s biggest fan, either – he strongly backed Bernie Sanders in the primaries – and he understands that after 30 years of people denigrating her that it is very hard to change minds. Instead, he just engages the people, giving a simple guided tour of her life and some of the good things she has done over the years. He puts her feminism into historical perspective, celebrates her smartness, her tenacity and her compassion.
Some people will point out – not inaccurately – that Moore is not always a completely comfortable live stage performer. However, it was obvious that he was passionately engaged in the performance, and as anyone who has seen one of his films would have to admit, he is a very funny man. Not everyone will acknowledge this, but it is also true – while he certainly has a personal political agenda, he is a very knowledgeable man and he does his homework.
While Moore absolutely did soften the points of view of some of the hardened audience members in that theater, I’m not 100% sure how many minds he will change out there with Michael Moore in TrumpLand. Let’s face it, many people in real life “TrumpLand” will never watch something with his name on it, anyhow.
Still, it was nice of him to try. Even more than most, this is a historically important election. Every little bit of help counts.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 21, 2016.