‘Fahrenheit 11/9’ is a fitting sequel to predecessor

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Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018)

Directed by Michael Moore

In his 2004 documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11,” over footage of Al Gore celebrating what he thought was a victory in Florida, director/writer/producer/narrator Michael Moore asked, “Was it all just a dream?” Fourteen years later, Moore asks the same question, over footage of Hillary Clinton’s momentous Philadelphia rally on the eve of the 2016 election, in his doc “Fahrenheit 11/9.” That might be the only obvious callback to his Palme d’Or-winning film, but “11/9” is a worthy sequel to its predecessor. But will his takedown of Donald Trump (and, more broadly, Trump’s America) be more effective than his pre-election attempt at dismantling President George W. Bush?

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Like all of Moore’s previous films, “Fahrenheit 11/9” dishes out relevant and revelatory facts in a thoughtfully curated manner. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. But “11/9” doesn’t have any jokes, that I can recall. Every laugh comes from the absurdity of what Moore is presenting. The juxtapositions of a Hitler oration video overdubbed with Trump’s own words, for instance. But this is also one of the most troubling, terrifying movies of the year. If you don’t leave the theater shaken to your core, you weren’t listening.

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The only complaint I had while watching “Fahrenheit 11/9” is that it crams about four worthwhile feature-length documentaries into one. All of the stuff about Donald Trump could’ve been its own documentary. If 2016’s “Michael Moore in TrumpLand” would’ve shown the stuff he showed in “11/9,” maybe we wouldn’t have had a President Trump (you could “what if” all day, though). But in “11/9,” Moore devotes equal attention to the crises beyond the White House. He spends a good deal of the documentary talking about the Flint, Michigan water crisis. That could’ve been a 100-minute documentary on its own merits. It’s tragic. He spends some time talking about the outdated Electoral College system, about the recent teachers’ strikes and labor unions, and about the Democratic Party’s trend toward centrism. Those could’ve all been their own documentaries, too. He spends a very short amount of time talking about criticisms of President Obama. While they are all fair criticisms, I think a more detailed, measured approach would have been fairer. That could’ve been its own movie, too (granted, that one might have trouble finding an audience). Alone, those disparate sections of this film have loose ties holding them together, or tying them to the central focus of Donald Trump’s presidency that one might have expected going into “Fahrenheit 11/9.” I was left wanting more. There’s so much information stuffed into this movie, but even more was left out.

8/10

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