I’m not understanding the 43% Rotten Tomatoes rating for Michael Moore in TrumpLand, which I saw this morning. It’s not earth-shaking or astonishing or even startling, but what do you expect from a 70-minute political comedy performance Moore gave only the weekend before last? (It was filmed on Friday, 10.7 and Saturday, 10.8, in Wilmington, Ohio.)
Critics want Moore to do his classic schtick, to keep going with his lefty-confrontationalist routine. They liked Bowling for Columbine, Sicko, Capitalism: A Love Story and Farenheit 911, and they want that streak to continue. And they don’t want the softer, friendlier, more up-spirited Moore of Where To Invade Next? and now Michael Moore in Trumpland, neither of which have much in the way of satirical teeth.
Except Moore is just as malleable and susceptible to growth spurts as the next guy, and he doesn’t seem to believe in looking back any more than Bob Dylan does.
The views in Michael Moore in TrumpLand are sharp and perceptive, but the film is mainly about…okay, fear at first but mainly warmth and mirth and mutual understandings. With that title you might think Moore would ridicule Donald Trump top to bottom, but his shortcomings — fish in a barrel – are barely alluded to. And Moore has nothing dismissive to say about Trumpsters. Naturally. Where would that get him?
But he does go all in for Hillary Clinton, even to the point of supposing she may be a secret liberal humanist who’s just waiting to take the oath of office before revealing her true colors. Hillary may suddenly become FDR during his first 100 days, Moore is saying, by pushing a “whoa, where did this come from?” social agenda (Bernie-like, anti-corporate).
Moore imagines that this secret-Hillary thing may line up with the saga of Pope Francis, a cautious, moderate fellow when he was a cardinal in Argentina, but who surprised everyone by flying liberal humanist colors when he moved to Rome.
I found Michael Moore in Trumpland reasonably engaging as far as it went. I certainly didn’t dislike it or feel provoked or irritated in any way. It’s fine. Moore has always been my idea of a brilliant communicator and a clever charmer, and I really quite enjoyed watching what appeared to be a good number of gray-haired Trump supporters really listening and seeming to get what Moore was on about, and even allowing their emotions to surface from time to time.
What else did Moore say in Wilmington? That he understands the whole deal about older white guys freaking over their lost power and influence. Moore is a lefty showbiz bigmouth, of course, but he’s a Michigan-born, working-class guy at heart, and he gets where guys of his age, race, gender and region are coming from.
I forget if older white guys constitute a mere 19% of the electorate or the entire U.S.population, but the bottom line is that Trump struck a chord with them because 2016 America is being more or less run by women, well-educated silverhairs, metrosexuals, African Americans, Hispanics and the LGBTQ gang. Working-class, 40-plus white guys are more or less a sideshow. Yes, their Congressional representatives are exerting a disproportionate influence upon the Washington machinery, but that’s mainly because of state-by-state, region-by-region gerrymandering.
Moore also understands that gun culture is almost completely a disenfranchised older-white-guy thing, and that the odds are very much against anyone ever getting shot by a woman these days. Guys are the shooters, period. But righties are decisive, Moore allows, while lefties are too wishy-washy. He also understands that cops have been playing the African American brutality card for far too many decades, and that it would be nice if people smoked a little more pot on the weekends. He also says that if Hillary doesn’t do the Pope Francis thing and governs in an overly cautious, Wall Street-friendly way that he himself will run for President in 2020.
Michael Moore in TrumpLand gives nice vibes. It woke me up, relaxed me, rubbed me down and made me feel a vague kinship with the other side. I walked out feeling that if Moore can make some Trump voters laugh from time to time that the world may be a slightly better place than I’ve been imagining it to be.