Cinematic Releases: Political Potpourri: Fahrenheit 11/9 (2018) Reviewed

Fahrenheit 11/9 is a batch of political potpourri -- a medley of fragrant, yet rotted political arguments used to cover up the stench of civic malaise. Call it ‘flicktivism’ -- the ability to absolve yourself of political guilt by siding up with a bucket of buttered popcorn and becoming ‘informed’ by the big screen.

Michael Moore made a big deal out of predicting Donald Trump’s ascension to the U.S. Presidency. In Fahrenheit 11/9, he buttresses his stated prediction of a Trump win with the expected digs at the Republican Party, NRA, and big business, but also with repeated indictments of the Democratic Party establishment, including former president Barack Obama.

Moore certainly has a commitment to stirring the political pot with entertaining documentaries, but is less committed to a coherent thesis in Fahrenheit 11/9. While Moore’s editing and writing highlight several recent political scandals and triumphs, such as the DNC’s selection of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders and the student activism following the Parkland shooting, his disparate choices in source material, and its arrangement in the film make it difficult to distill Fahrenheit 11/9’s overall message.

Despite a lack of a resonant structure, Fahrenheit 11/9 succeeds in delivering many powerful political arguments. Moore successfully presents the Flint Water Crisis as an act of greed. He also presents Neo-Liberal Democratic Party policies as disempowering for the American Left.

That Moore spends a significant amount of time criticizing the leftist establishment only adds to the sense of disorientation. With so many people to blame, such as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Barack Obama, the NRA, big business, and Gwen Stefani, it’s hard to channel a narrative animus, which would’ve provided a more focused viewing experience.

Like other political documentaries, Moore mixes in the presentation of challenges and problems with possible solutions. In general, Fahrenheit 11/9 is anti-establishment -- even to the Left. The solutions that Moore is presenting are: more collective bargaining, and new blood serving political office. What’s curious, though is that Moore supports a study of history to analyze current problems, chiefly the U.S.’s  supposed slide towards despotism. What’s curious about it is that while he draws up a case for Trump’s rise mirroring Hitler’s, he simultaneously criticizes Trump’s prior lack of political experience while promoting civic newbies to take up the mantle of leadership, including teenagers.

Despite the inconsistencies, along with a hard-to-follow thesis, Fahrenheit 11/9 is a compelling watch, if not for coming to agreement with Moore’s points, but for him making all of them to begin with.

-Blake Pynnonen