Michael Moore’s scattershot documentary Fahrenheit 11/9 is shrewd, effective, state-of-emergency work—a furious reply to the event of Nov. 9, 2016, and the way, in Moore’s view, the Democrats allowed it to happen.
Much of Fahrenheit 11/9’s look at Trump’s America concentrates on Moore’s hometown of Flint, Mich., as a vision of the future of urban America. There, thousands have been poisoned by the town’s water. Michigan has 20 percent of the world’s freshwater supply, through the Great Lakes, and yet citizens were forced by a Republican-appointed emergency manager to drink the filthy, foaming Flint River.
Moore got cred as an oracle for correctly guessing that his fellow citizens from Michigan were going to vote for Trump. These last two years have been as politically frightening as any in our history, but the paranoia in the film is sometimes out of control. An example is when Moore dubs Trump speeches over footage of Hitler, because the body language of all demagogues is the same. It’s fun, but it’s not fair.
Moore quotes the late Susan Sontag saying, “We’re only one 9-11 away from losing our democracy.” This is inarguable. However, the links between the Weimar Republic and Trumpland aren’t that strong. Unlike 1920s Germany, we didn’t just lose a massive war with 7.1 million casualties, we’re not bringing shopping baskets of worthless currency to the supermarket, and Stalin isn’t looming over us, scaring the moneyed class into bed with dictators. Then again, I never thought Trump would win, either.
Fahrenheit 11/9 is a buffet movie: you take some and leave the rest. Moments throughout justify it handsomely, such as the interview with the unnamed female vet who says she had better access to water back in Iraq than she does in Flint. Also encouraging is a series of truly populist congressional candidates, including New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, and West Virginia’s Richard Ojeda, a pugnacious double-Bronze Star–winning hero.
This kind of energy is worth cheering over, rather than meeting the Trump catastrophe with loathing, laughter or utter despair.