By Haley Goetz
Michael Moore is one of the most inventive and daring filmmakers working today. His documentaries explore all sorts of varied and interesting American topics, ranging from our nation’s insatiable obsession with guns in 2002’s Bowling for Columbine to a sociological examination of countries that do things better than us in 2015’s Where to Invade Next. The crucial thing about Michael Moore is that he is brash and he is not afraid to get right up into people’s faces. The man was a fixture outside Trump Tower for quite some time, arranging for protests and also a vigil for Heather Heyer, who was innocently murdered during the Charlottesville rally in August 2017. In Moore’s flipping of his 2004 film Fahrenheit 9/11 (which is about the September 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent War on Terror), he brings to life a new beast that has emerged in American politics. Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018) centers itself on the election of Donald Trump in 2016, but it’s also more than just that. This is a film completely of its moment, focusing on a very wide variety of topics all somewhat relating to Trump’s ultimate rise to power. It is, however, also a film that veers in a bit too many directions.
Fahrenheit 11/9 begins on the pivotal night of November 8, 2016, a day in modern American history that came unexpectedly and with a lot of horror. Moore makes the audience watch in suspended disbelief as a recap of the election results come flowing in, followed by archival footage of people from Team Hillary Clinton watching the results at the same time as Team Donald Trump. Both of these large-scale viewing parties were happening only a few city blocks away from each other in New York City, but they were seemingly worlds apart in what they each represented. Moore looks into this night for some time but then instantly veers off in another direction, looking instead at another crisis that was happening at this same time. That would be the Flint water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Moore is a Michigan native, so this is a topic near and dear to his heart. I ultimately feel that this is why he spent so much time (if not more time) looking into the Flint issue rather than the election issue. I will say, however, that he did a painstakingly amazing job with researching the event and all that went into it, and how it is still not being correctly handled to this day.
Following the film’s veer-off into the Flint water crisis, it kept taking all sorts of different directions not really related to the election in 2016. Moore spent a lot of time talking to some grassroots democratic candidates in West Virginia and New York, looking into how the Democratic party is changing from being less about old established money and more about being a party by the people, for the people. Along with this, Moore looks at the West Virginia teacher’s strike and how that has affected the shape of things. He also spends some time focusing on the Parkland shootings that occurred this past February in Florida. It seems a little apparent that Moore decided to throw in the Parkland storyline a bit last-minute, as most of the footage he added to the film seems strung together and far less structured than the rest of the film. It’s certainly of importance to showcase this when talking about what is going on in America right now, but at the same time it added on a whole new storyline to the film that just didn’t need to be there.
After seeing this film, I distinctly remember telling my friend that watching it was like the equivalent of listening to ten different podcasts on varying subjects at the same time. I think that Moore veered off in way too many directions in this film, and ultimately didn’t really tie up any loose ends by the film’s finale. Instead of tying up these loose ends, Moore decides to focus on even more topics such as the recent Hawaii missile scare and (very briefly) the Standing Rock protests. I love and respect Michael Moore as a filmmaker, but I found this to definitely not be his strongest work. If you like him as much as I do and want to spend three hours finding out some not-talked-about information regarding America and its government, I’d recommend you give this a watch. If not, just keep on listening to your NPR podcasts.