By John H. Foote
Michael Moore’s style, I find abrasive, exploitive and sometimes cruel. What he did to poor Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine (2003) was nasty. He blindsided a clearly confused actor suffering with Alzheimer’s and did nothing to endear himself to audiences in doing so. Still his film won an Oscar as Best Documentary. He followed that with the sensational Fahrenheit 9/11 (2005) which attacked the Bush administration and focused on how 9/11 happened and why. It was brilliant, scathing and given that nobody sued him…accurate. The film remains the highest grossing documentary ever made and won the Best Film Award at Cannes
In an interesting twist of number, he has switched the numbers around to focus on the second worst day in the history of the United States, the day Donald Trump was elected President. Far behind in the polls, with only fifteen per cent support, Trump surged ahead of Hilary Clinton and stunned the world (and himself) with a victory. Life in the United States has not been the same since. He has made a mockery of the office, turned it into a daily sideshow with himself at the centre of the storm. CNN has become Trump News though he calls them fake news.
Moore, I thought, and truthfully I hoped, was giving us a scathing film about the disaster that is the Donald Trump presidency, but instead he gives us a whole bunch of stuff cobbled together for the film. It is the most uneven, poorly edited film of his career, and I wonder if he should have made a couple of films, sorting out what he wanted to say. He takes a run at the Clintons, at Obama, though the Obama act was shocking, I had no idea. He explores in depth the nightmare in Flint as the people drank poisoned water and became ill. From there he turns his sights on the world changing teenagers from Parkland High School. It was like he could not decide what to make a film about, there was so much variety and, like a kid in a candy store, he took it all.
The problem is there is no focus.
Is this film bashing the government of Michigan for what they did and have so far gotten away with (yes), is it bashing Obama (yes), Hillary Clinton (yes), and Trump (yes). Is there anyone the film does not bash? Yes, Michael Moore, who acts like the peoples hero arriving at the governor’s office to make a citizen’s arrest of the man, and when that fails he arrives at his home with a trunk full of bad water. Moore makes it clear the kids at Parkland High School invited him down after the shooting there, taking him to their secret headquarters, letting him in on their planning.
More than any previous film he has made, this one makes Moore a star, or man of the people, or whatever it is he wants himself to be thought of as.
I was hoping for a good old fashioned Trump bashing, hoping he had even more information than we do right now. True he painted Trump as the arrogant, entitled creep he has always been, but there was nothing really new. The comparisons to Hitler were chilling when presented next to archive footage of the Nazi madman, but that comparison has been made and discussed frequently
All in all it was a major disappointment.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.