FAHRENHEIT 11/9: Filmmaker/provocateur Michael Moore (See CLOSING CREDITS.) has never been known for even-handed treatment of his subject matter. There’s seldom any ambiguity in where his sympathies lie. But both political sides get skewered despite some grudging admiration for the way Donald Trump exploited and manipulated the media to get elected President while benefitting from the equally significant missteps and tone-deafness of Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated campaign. Heck, even presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner has kind words for Moore’s work. But Moore’s passionate anger and righteous indignation is on full display in his passages about the lead contamination of the water supply in Flint, Michigan caused by the governor’s emergency takeover of predominantly black cities where the water began being piped in from the locally polluted river. When the flamboyant director/writer pulls one of his made-for-the camera stunts like attempting a citizen’s arrest of the governor or hosing his lawn with brackish water from Flint, we know he’s genuinely pissed. His screenplay shifts, awkwardly at times, from one topic to another like the plight of underpaid teachers forced to go on strike, student activists launching a nationwide march for sensible gun laws and grass roots political candidates wanting to overturn our system in order to put in place what most Americans actually want. One can be forgiven for wondering just where this is all going amidst the inevitable comparisons of Trump with Hitler. But eventually, we get around to being left with the notion that our idea of a democracy is only an idea when the majority of a populace fail to elect a President or when the Democrats rig their own party nomination of their hand-picked candidate for the highest office in the land. But the movie’s background music ingeniously reflects the wry tone of Moore’s delightfully sardonic narration as he raises the troubling spectre of non-voters making up the largest political party in a divided America. CRITIC’S GRADE: B+
CLOSING CREDITS: Even though Michael Moore won an Academy Award for BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (2002), I still believe ROGER & ME (1989), his first semi-documentary, to be his best work with its unique blend of humorous essay and somewhat serious journalism. The film chronicles Moore’s protracted efforts to meet then General Motors’ president Roger Smith to learn why GM closed its’ plant in Flint, Michigan (There’s that ill-fated city again.) putting 30,000 people out of work. There are some emotionally grabbing scenes like a family getting evicted just before Christmas, a woman making ends meet by selling rabbits for food or pets and a future Miss America addressing the economic impact of GM’s decision. A critical success, the movie was one of the most highest-grossing works of non-fiction ever released.