Review: Less a documentary than a stand-up gig, Michael Moore’s ‘TrumpLand’ isn’t the firebrand one might expect
“Michael Moore in TrumpLand” is not only the title of the new film by the cinematic provocateur but it is also an accurate description of what it provides.
Not an investigative documentary on the order of the writer-director’s previous films like “Fahrenheit 9/ll,” “Bowling for Columbine” or “Sicko,” “TrumpLand” is rather a rambling, mildly entertaining performance film recording a stand-up appearance Moore recently made in the heart of Trump country.
That would be the city of Wilmington, Ohio, the key metropolis in that state’s Clinton County, a place where four times as many primary voters cast their ballots for Donald Trump as they did for Hillary Clinton and a city so conservative that Glenn Beck is the benefactor of the Murphy Theatre where the event took place.
And, that title notwithstanding, “TrumpLand” is not really about the Republican presidential nominee. Such a last-minute project that it was shown to critics only the day it opened in theaters, its main thrust is as a defense of Hillary Clinton against those who hate her and a heartfelt plea for people to vote for her no matter what.
“You can keep hating her,” says Moore, who confesses he himself has never voted for a Clinton in his life. “Do it for the country.”
Before Moore gets to the pro-Hillary message, however, he offers himself up as a kind of therapist in chief, offering soothing words to any and all constituencies, refusing, for instance, to chastise millennials because they change the ink cartridges in computer printers.
Next, he tries to make the Trump voters in the audience feel comfortable, first with humor, then with empathy.
The humor part is his visual stunt of isolating all Mexican Americans in the crowd in one walled-in balcony while isolating all the Muslim Americans in another balcony and observing them with an in-theater drone.
He also talks about the key Trump demographic, the angry white guy over 35, telling them, “our days are over.” He jokes weakly about internment camps for men if Clinton wins, and says that the loud male roar often heard at Trump rallies “is the sound of the dying dinosaur.”
More serious is Moore’s discussion of why so many good people he knows in his home state of Michigan are voting for Trump even though they don’t like him.
“He is saying things to people who are hurting,” Moore says in the film’s most serious moments. “All they have left is the right to vote, and they see Trump as a human Molotov cocktail, a hand grenade thrown into a system that destroyed their lives.
“It will be the biggest ‘f... you’ in recorded history. I get it.”
But after imagining what a Trump presidency would bring, including deporting Rosie O’Donnell to American Samoa, Moore turns to the difficulties everyone, himself included, have had with Clinton in the past.
After noting that she is too cozy with Wall Street and that she voted for the Iraq war, he encourages audience members to say nice things about the candidate, saying three things he likes about George Bush to get the ball rolling and telling an elaborate, pointless anecdote about the time he got invited to a White House state dinner.
Warming to the task, Moore talks about the horrible way Clinton has been treated, noting that crackpots online claim she has personally killed 46 people and lamenting the way she was “attacked and humiliated” after her failed attempt to pass universal healthcare, one of Moore’s passions.
Referring to the current pope, who Moore says remained silent during the military dictatorship in Argentina only to blossom into a reformer once he was elected, the filmmaker wonders “what if Hillary became our Pope Francis,” surprising everyone with the good things that she does.
It will only happen, Moore says, if people both vote for her and insist that she keep her promises. If she doesn’t, he announces with a concluding flourish, he will run for president himself in 2020.
Sounds like another film project coming on.
‘Michael Moore in TrumpLand’
Running time: 1 hour, 13 minutes
Playing: Laemmle’s Town Center 5, Encino
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