Michael Moore plays Trump card

By Ann Hornaday review

Michael Moore's act is part lecture, part performance art. Photo / AP
Michael Moore's act is part lecture, part performance art. Photo / AP

Michael Moore has given his fans an unexpected gift with Michael Moore in TrumpLand, a concert film of a pro-Hillary monologue that he performed, filmed, edited and released in a scant 11 days.

Propelled by Moore's familiar combination of righteous fury, irreverent humour and practised Everyman persona, the film is a fitfully engaging, unevenly entertaining enterprise that reflects the hurry-up nature of its production.

Although Moore clearly perceives TrumpLand to be his own version of an October surprise, it's less game-changing than reassuring, especially to left-leaning voters, some of whom may still be having trouble voting for a candidate they see as fatally centrist, corporation-friendly and untrustworthy.

Delivered in Wilmington, Ohio - more pointedly, in Clinton County - Moore's act is part lecture and part performance art, as the filmmaker and activist welcomes a crowd of all political stripes, then launches into a satirical critique of Donald Trump's candidacy.

A group of "Mexican-looking" audience members is sequestered in an upper balcony behind a faux-brick wall; Muslims also sit together, for easy surveillance by a passing drone.

It's all staged to make the Trump fans in the crowd "feel more comfortable", according to Moore, whose good-natured patter only partly belies the bitterness beneath.

After explaining Trump's appeal by pretending to bemoan the impending extinction of "angry white guys", then arguing why women are more enlightened, peaceable leaders, he leaves the rostrum to sit at a desk, where he reads from a far more convincing essay on Trumpism as a "Molotov cocktail" thrown into a political structure that has systematically betrayed the working class. Should Trump be elected, he shouts, it will be "the biggest f*** you ever recorded in human history".

After a few ill-conceived video skits and more than a few cutaways to the uncomfortable-looking crowd, Moore gets to his real mission, which is to make his audience warm to Hillary Clinton, a woman who gave up her own ambitions - even her name - to help her husband's political career, only to be humiliated and hated when she tried to spearhead healthcare reform.

"Can't we start saying something nice about her?" Moore pleads as audience members - a few looking suspiciously like plants - offer some words of praise, from "overqualified" and "smart" to "stood by her man".

What follows is a spirited defence of a woman Moore insists he has come to adore, even though he voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary. He makes a persuasive case, even if the comparisons to Pope Francis feel like a bit much. In an impressive bout of wishful thinking, (or maybe just projection), Moore suggests Hillary's compromises and triangulation are part of a lifelong leftist long game.

What's more, as in so many Michael Moore films, TrumpLand has a way of constantly looping back to Moore himself, whether it's a self-serving digression about being a guest at the White House (both Bill and Hillary were big fans) or concluding with his own presidential campaign promises, should Hillary not fulfil his own inflated hopes for her.

Michael Moore in TrumpLand is a lot like the titular raconteur himself: passionate, shambolic, equal parts inspiring and irritating. Whether Moore will change any minds is open to question, but his cinematic pamphlet makes the election season seem somehow more complete.

• Moore's film is streaming on iTunes.

- Washington Post

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