Magazine article Variety

Michael Moore in TrumpLand

Magazine article Variety

Michael Moore in TrumpLand

Article excerpt

Michael Moore in TrumpLand


Michael Moore in TrumpLand

Director: Michael Moore

With: Michael Moore

"Michael Moore in TrumpLand" arrives as a sneak attack. The movie was shot 11 days ago, and it was only over the weekend that Moore arranged to have it premiere on Oct. 18 at New York's IFC Center. (It opens today for a week in New York and Los Angeles, and will be available on iTunes.) Going into the premiere, I don'tthink I was alone in wanting the movie to be a cathartic IED thrown into the already gliding-off-the-rails surrealism of the election season. Unfortunately, the documentary comes on with a bombs-away fury, but winds up being a hand grenade toss that doesn'tfully detonate.

At 73 minutes long, the movie is simply the filmed version of Moore's recent one-man stage show, which he's been presenting in Ohio. It was designed to be performed in the heart of Republican country, and that makes sense. Moore has always been accused of preaching to the liberal-leftchoir, but in this case, he decided to branch out. The movie was shot at the Murphy Theatre in the conservative, southern Ohio town of Wilmington. Up on the marquee the night of the show, the words "Trump Voters Welcome" were placed in red lettering.

When the film begins, there are a lot of Trump supporters in the audience . and Clinton supporters, Sanders supporters, third-party supporters, and undecideds. It's not a hostile crowd; it's just not the usual Michael Moore progressive one.

For a while, Moore, with his stringy long hair tucked under a San Francisco 49ers cap, stands at a podium and speaks in the style of a free-wheelingly funny and scathing professor. (That's the best part of the movie.) Then he gets more earnest, becoming at once a stand-up comedian, a hectoring editorialist, a can't-we-all-get-along negotiator, and a warm-and-fuzzy Hillary advocate. And Donald Trump? He, of course, is the reason that anyone is going to be excited to see this movie.

But Moore's title turns out to be a bit of false advertising. The filmmaker means it quite literally: He's giving a stage performance in the heart of TrumpLand, which is fine. But the real lure of that title is that it promises the fullness of Moore's take on Trump: a deep dive, a perception to spin our noggins around or make us laugh in the way that Moore can, with a cathartic slap of recognition at something that we haven't heard before.

He starts offby doing that. Backed by looming photographs of the beautiful young Hillary Clinton, the filmmaker offers an analysis of Trump that's all about the decline and fall of the white male in America, and he does a terrific riffon the agony that a lot of men feel. White men over 35, he announces, are just 19% of the population. They're fading! He talks about the loss of jobs and security and family, but mostly he talks about the loss of ego.

To Moore, an angry white guy like Trump provides a promise: We will take it back to how it was. Moore is honest enough to see his own sensibilities echoed in the cosmic gripe of Trump supporters; they're in a rage at a lot of the same things he is - a government and a corporate economy that are no longer organized to take care of people. But the choice that Trump voters make is to back someone who pledges to destroy the status quo. As Moore testifies, Trump is likely to destroy it, all right, along with everything else. Solidly, he builds the ground floor of an argument. …

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