Movie Review – Fahrenheit 11/9
I feel that since the 2016 election, people for some reason or another have been more tuned in to the news and what’s happening, so a lot of what’s seen here will be rehashing the past two years with not much surprises. As a bit of a news junkie, I wasn’t much surprised by anything here. In fact, many chunks of the documentary are dependent on people seeing it being somewhat informed and already recognizing a lot. For example, one would already need to know who James Comey is and what the image of a car plowing through protesters in Charlottesville during the 2017 rally means. Without context to those things, they feel empty here. Yes, it seems incredulous that anyone with a smart phone in America or access to the Internet in some way wouldn’t recognize those things, but still.
In several ways, this film is a sequel to writer-director Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), which was released prior to November that year as a way of possibly influencing that election. This movie is coming out a month or so before the November 2018 voting day as a way of possibly influencing what happens in the booth. Moore’s 2004 film was named after the Ray Bradbury book and the very crucial date of 9/11 or September 11, 2001, which was a significant event that was that film’s jumping off point. This movie is also named after the Bradbury book and a very crucial date with a significant event that is the jumping off point. Ironically, that date just happens to be the reverse of the numbers of Moore’s 2004 release.
Moore starts his film on November 9, 2016, which was the election day of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States. The movie then proceeds as a breakdown of what led to Trump’s election, despite all the erroneous predictions that he wouldn’t win. Again, the intervening two years since has seen that breakdown occur on all the news networks, as those same news networks had to reconcile with their own failings and at times complicity in Trump’s ascendency. Moore rehashes it here.
However, Moore does take it a step further and compares Trump’s ascendency with the ascendency of Adolf Hitler in Germany prior to the Holocaust and World War II. Some people will obviously dismiss these comparisons, but the parallels are uncanny and a lot of the same words spoken about Hitler in the 1920’s and 30’s are spoken about Trump now. Moore points out those parallels and makes a strong argument, but his case against Trump is less impressive than his boosting of grass-roots and progressive activists on the rise in this country.
Because Moore is a resident of the state of Michigan, he can’t help but include something about his home state. In fact, Michigan was the subject of his very first documentary Roger & Me (1989). In the time since his last feature, there has been a huge story in Michigan that can’t be ignored, that of the Flint water crisis and the lead poisoning of children, as well as the onslaught of Legionnaires’ disease. There was an Emmy-nominated movie called Flint (2017) that didn’t go into the Legionnaires’, so that was an aspect that’s a little enlightening here. Given that Roger & Me was about General Motors, it was also enlightening to see another GM connection and controversy here.
Most of the criticism during the Flint water crisis was aimed at Governor Rick Snyder, but, despite the greed, bigotry and lies of the Snyder administration and the Trump administration using Synder as a template, the real or most damning critique is of President Barack Obama. It’s odd that Moore who more than likely voted for Obama twice did what Dinesh D’Souza, a right-wing filmmaker, could never do, and that’s show how Obama supporters can be offended and indeed turned off by him.
This movie shows how Obama’s offensive act is indicative of a flaw of the Democratic Party in general going back to President Clinton. However, the most egregious thing was at the Democratic National Convention where despite winning West Virginia’s primary, super-delegates robbed Bernie Sanders of the nomination on the convention floor. Yet, the legacy of Sanders lives on in grass-roots and progressive candidates who are working-class in Michigan and West Virginia, many of whom are women and who are very inspiring.
In that regard, Moore also has a segment on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting. The survivors are students who have become activists in their own right and who have made successful strides. It’s clear that Moore is inspired by these students just as much as anything. At first, it seems as if Moore is doing a sequel to his Oscar-winning Bowling for Columbine (2002), but with a more hopeful tone in some ways.
The one thing that didn’t work is a segment that Moore does on Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the President. Moore has a great sense of humor, and examining the incestuous undertones of President Trump with his daughter is a joke that is now synonymous with the 45th President, but it’s a cheap shot given that it follows a segment about sexual predators in the media. Moore shows us men like Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Bill O’Reilly and lists their sexual misconduct allegations. However, Moore never lists or enumerates the allegations against Trump. To focus on the inappropriate comments or moments between him and Ivanka feel instead like a low blow.
Rated R for language and some disturbing material and images.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 10 mins.