There's one key challenge when you're essentially a one-note filmmaker, and rest assured that acclaimed documentarian Michael Moore IS a one-note filmmaker, and that's that no matter what you do and how hard you try the element of surprise is completely gone from every subsequent film.
Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 continues, nearly 15 years after its initial box-office release, to be the #1 feature doc of all-time at the U.S. box-office. In fact, nothing really even comes close to the film that grossed a little over $119 million at the box-office.
To this day, that's unheard of for a feature doc. Heck, if you go down to the 100th most popular doc of all-time, Warx2, the box-office gross is a mere $2.3 million.
Moore has five documentaries in the Top 100. Whether you love Moore or hate Moore, the simple fact is that America shows up to his incredibly one-note yet inspired and entertaining documentaries.
Rest assured, Fahrenheit 11/9 will be no exception.
If you love Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 11/9 will make you love him more.
If you hate Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 11/9 will make you hate him even more.
When it comes down to it, you know exactly what to expect from Fahrenheit 11/9 and that's exactly what you get from the film - an occasionally incendiary, frequently funny, sporadically offensive, relentlessly opinionated, and tremendously effective one-note feature documentary during which Michael Moore plays that one-note to near perfection and turns it into a symphony.
While there will be those tempted to compare Moore's propaganda to that of Dinesh D'Souza, whose Death of a Nation is still in theaters and now resting comfortably in the top 50 docs of all-time, such a comparison is completely and utterly ludicrous in virtually every way.
Michael Moore is a filmmaker, admittedly a highly opinionated and self-absorbed one, but a true filmmaker. Dinesh D'Souza? He's a used car salesman trying to sell you an AMC Pacer by telling you its a Jaguar without a shred of evidence to support his argument.
Oh, and for the record, D'Souza's also just a plain ole' crappy filmmaker.
The core of Fahrenheit 11/9 centers around a simple, crassly worded question by Moore - "How the fuck did this happen?
We all know what "this" is, right? Moore makes it abundantly clear throughout Fahrenheit 11/9 that Trump is a symptom and not the problem. It's an argument that he makes time and time and time again. Fahrenheit 11/9 begins on the eve of the 2016 Presidential election, a time when post-Obama euphoria and pre-Clinton anticipation filled the air and nearly everyone was predicting that America would make history yet again by electing its first woman president on the heels of having had two terms with America's first African-American president.
Everyone was absolutely positive. Politicians expected it. Celebrities expected it. Media expected it.
Of course, we all know that's not what happened. Ironically, in a weird sort of way, Moore had predicted Trump's victory not because it was a desired outcome but because he's always had the ability to see a broader picture. Donald Trump's election wasn't just some momentary systemic swerve that allowed an impulsive narcissist to claim the nation's highest office, but it was the result of years of careening dangerously around curve after curve like James Dean on an isolated California highway.
And we know how that ended.
"Now" has been years in the making. Trump? We could almost chalk it up to "Right place. Right time."
In fact, while Fahrenheit 11/9 has some interesting insights into Trump and some footage you've likely not seen it's also abundantly clear that Michael Moore made an editorial decision to NOT focus the film on Donald Trump. Fahrenheit 11/9 is, at least for the most part, about the system that created Donald Trump - how it came to be and what we can actually do about it.
If you're looking for quick answers? This isn't going to be your kind of film. If you're interested in a well-informed, well researched, entertaining, occasionally exploitative and also occasionally loose with the facts look at the decades of abuse of power and institutional failures that led us to this point then Fahrenheit 11/9 is very much the film for you.
There is a reason this film is called Fahrenheit 11/9 and you will understand that vividly by the time you reach the end of the just over two hour film.
To his credit, Moore implicates himself along with others in the distorted system that allowed for the election of Donald Trump, an implication that begins with Moore's public acknowledgement of having once bowed to Trump's pettiness when the two appeared on "The Roseanne Show" in 1998 and even delves into the power structures that have influenced and supported Moore's own filmmaking efforts including the fact that none other than Jared Kushner hosted the after-party for the premiere of Moore's 2007 release Sicko, a documentary that was also at least partially supported by Steve Bannon's American Vantage Media.
Oh, the tangled webs we weave.
Moore goes relentlessly after Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for his role, according to Moore, in the epic disaster that unfolded and continues to unfold in Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan. It's an example of corporate capitalism over democracy and, Moore stresses, it's an example that is closer to the rule than the exception.
Moore doesn't play soft with the more liberal side of the political spectrum, railing on names like Pelosi, Clinton and Obama for further advancing the cause of corporate capitalism at the expense of democracy.
Along the way, yes, Moore occasionally crosses the line including a sure to anger Trump supporters segment weaving together Trump's speeches alongside those of a certain Nazi leader who need not be named. It gets the point across, of course, but it's more than a little histrionic in presentation and just plain not necessary.
While some will fault Moore for potentially exploiting the Parkland shooting, the argument's really a moot point with the appearance in the film of David Hogg and a growing legion of progressive politicians such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others. Indeed, even as Moore paints a rather terrifying picture it's never a completely hopeless one as Fahrenheit 11/9 sheds light on the growing numbers of activists, on all sides of the political spectrum, who've grown weary of politics as usual and are doing something about it.
Moore's basic point? It's going to take everyone getting involved if we're going to break this cycle.
There will be those who hate Fahrenheit 11/9 precisely because it's Michael Moore creating yet another Michael Moore film in which Michael Moore does things that Michael Moore always does in films.
Fahrenheit 11/9 is a little bit of a messier film than Moore usually makes, however, almost exactly because maybe for the first time in his cinematic history Moore sort of steps back from himself and his film and acknowledges that he's not the answer - we are. Fahrenheit 11/9 is an angry film, a passionate film, a frightened film, and an immensely moving film that entertains and educates and inspires and calls everyone across the political spectrum into action for the sake of democracy and for the sake of this country and for the sake of you and I. Fahrenheit 11/9 isn't exactly Michael Moore's best film, but it may very well be his most effective film to date.
You may love Michael Moore. You may hate Michael Moore. You won't soon forget Fahrenheit 11/9, a one-note film turned cinematic symphony.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic