Movie Review: Fahrenheit 11/9

Following the financial and critical successes of Michael Moore’s last three decades, Fahrenheit 11/9 spares neither razzle nor dazzle with the latest in scathing critiques of U.S. politics. Moore’s shotgun approach to filmmaking sees him take a scattershot to cover as broad of an area as he feels necessary to drive his point home. As with most of his other work, Moore wants the viewer to get riled up enough to feel uncomfortable and take action after viewing the film.

The meaning behind the title “Fahrenheit 11/9” is revealed in the film’s opening: The Democrats recoil in horror on November 9th, 2016 as their presidential dreams are crushed by the villains of the film, the Republicans, led by Donald Trump. Moore poses the rhetorical question, “How the f*** did this happen?” Creating a very clear black and white division of the country forces the viewer to take a stance and either agree with Moore and be correct, according to his viewpoint, or disagree and stand to be corrected.

The derisive and heavy-handed message will feel familiar if you have viewed any of Moore’s other movies. If you’re already on Moore’s team, then you can feel vindicated in your self-righteousness. If you’re the one taking heat for being on the wrong side of his equation, you can pick apart his arguments. Therein lies a question not posed in Moore’s documentary: If the movie won’t change anyone’s mind, then why bother?

Going back to his Flint, Michigan roots, Michael Moore investigates the political corruption around the poisoned water scandal. He calls out Michigan governor Rick Snyder’s actions and his collusion with the Republican party, quipping, “No terrorist organization has figured out how to poison an entire American city. It took the Michigan Republican Party to pull that off.” Moore then reaches into his bag of stunts and shows that he can collect the metal-laden water…and sprinkle it on Rick Snyder’s lawn.

Moore’s version of comedy is not the laugh out loud type, but more not-so-nuanced tongue-in-cheek humor that’s funny only if you’re rooting for Moore’s team. In Fahrenheit 11/9, the humor is as dark and cutting as ever, crassly poking fun of the rich, the Right, and the religious.

Putting political beliefs aside, Moore does have a flair for storytelling, and there is a narrative arc to Fahrenheit 11/9. We begin with despair, followed by a heavy dose of “I told you so,” followed by a dash of “Why haven’t things changed?” In the end, the messages create a beam of light in the vast tunnel of darkness: We still have a voice, people are powerful when they work together, and you can make a difference if you’re politically active…so get involved. This call to arms may provide the answer to why the documentary was created: to convince people who agree with Michael Moore’s political leanings to be more active. 

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