Updated: Feb 7, 2020
Fahrenheit 11/9 is Michael Moore’s new documentary looking at the state of America after the 2016 presidential election. Hearing this, you are probably expecting 125 minutes (minus the end credits) of him trashing Trump. However, while he does spend a fair amount of time throwing harsh words at the current president, he has more than one target. Moore’s message seems to be that we did not get where we are overnight. He uses plenty of examples to explain where exactly we are and how we got here. His narrative is all over the place. Sometimes this approach works and the movie gains great power. Sometimes he overreaches or takes easy shots and his points fail to connect. But you can tell these issues mean a lot to him and that passion carries him past the weak spots.
The weakest, really, are the sections about Trump. There is very little here that has not already been covered in greater detail in other places. Though, thankfully, he barely even mentions Russia and the ongoing investigation. Instead, Moore brings up Trump’s business practices, his possibly alarming comments concerning his own daughter and his racism. He does add a couple of new bits to these topics, but nothing that makes them completely necessary. Fahrenheit 11/9 is much more effective when Moore turns his gaze to incidents showing how the American people are not being served by their politicians, regardless of party.
His segments on the Parkland survivors, the teachers strike in West Virginia and, especially, his examination of the water crisis in his hometown of Flint, Michigan generally do a better job of getting his opinions across. His passion and anger really shine through here because he has a specific cause to support. He spent time with the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the struggling West Virginia teachers and the suffering citizens of Flint. Though Moore clearly has an agenda, he interviews some interesting people and allows them to make the argument for him. This is more consistently thought-provoking than his own speechifying and stunts.
Unsurprisingly, the Flint scenes are the most focused and well-structured in the entire movie. He goes after those he considers responsible for what has happened there (mainly, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder). While I do not agree with everything Moore says and does (his big stunt is to try to perform a citizen’s arrest on Snyder, which achieves nothing; it is neither entertaining nor furthers his argument), he makes several good points and attempts to add to the conversation instead of just shouting over it.
Moore is a democrat, so there is a lot of republican bashing. However, the democratic elite does not get out of Fahrenheit 11/9 unscathed. He takes aim at their top officials, the DNC and even President Obama for how they have handled various situations. His intent is to show that none of these politicians have our best interests in mind. So, if we want this country to truly be the one we believe it can be, we have to make our voices heard, whether through protests or something as simple as voting.
Politically speaking, Fahrenheit 11/9 is basically what you think it would be. In terms of entertainment, it is a bit scattered in its structure and content, but mostly enjoyable. His efforts to entertain, oddly, are less entertaining than when he sticks to his main message. Someone making clear points has a much better chance of changing minds than someone tossing off insults. When Fahrenheit 11/9 does the former, it certainly justifies its existence.
3½ out of 5
Written and Directed by Michael Moore