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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Michael Moore in TrumpLand movie review: hope and humanity in a dark hour

Michael Moore in TrumpLand green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

The filmmaker presents a standup-comedy case for Hillary Clinton for president, not as a fan of Clinton but as a patriot worried about the state of America.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love Michael Moore
I’m “biast” (con): hate Donald Trump
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It’s not quite a documentary; it’s more of a concert movie. Michael Moore in TrumpLand is just a recording of a one-man standup political-comedy routine. It’s not even polished, either as a performance or as a presentation. But that was never intended to be the point. This is simply 75 minutes of Moore — a filmmaker who has long been both passionately patriotic about America and passionately angry about the state of the nation — presenting his case for Hillary Clinton for president. Not as a fan of Clinton — as Moore says, he’s actually never voted for either Hillary or Bill before — but as someone worried about the country.

Unexpectedly, Moore praises conservatives, tweaks liberals, and has a lot of sympathy for Trump supporters.

Talking to an audience in the small Ohio town of Wilmington, which voted far more for Trump in the primaries than it did for Clinton, Moore (Where to Invade Next, Sicko) opens on an unexpected note, praising conservatives and engaging in some self-deprecating tweaking of liberals. And he has a lot of sympathy for Trump voters, too, or at least for their grievances. (“Trump voters welcome,” it reads on the marquee outside the theater where this was recorded several weeks ago, and that’s not a snide joke. Though Moore does have some noodges for the more bigoted causes Trump and his supporters have espoused.) Still, Moore lays out a brutal — and very funny — case for what a disaster a vote for Trump as president would be, and a smart — and also very funny — case for why Clinton is the president the US needs right now. He has hilarious spin on the supposed conspiracies that swirl around Clintontweet, and a deeply humane appreciation of all that she has achieved in spite of the endless misogynistic pushback she has gotten over the course of her entire public life. The bit in which he gets the audience to say nice things about Clinton is clever and ultimately surprising: he kicks it off with “I’ll say three nice things about George W Bush just to prove it can be done”… and he does. (But that’s not the surprising bit.)

A lot of the stony faces in the audience at the beginning seem to have been won over by the time Moore describes his vision of how awesome a Clinton presidency could be, which I would love to believe in but suspect is hugely overoptimistic. Still, it’s nice to be able to grab onto a little hope at the moment: while Moore is dead serious, he also brings some desperately needed humor and humanity to what has been a downright dire and depressing 16-month presidential seasontweet.

green light 3.5 stars

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Michael Moore in TrumpLand (2016) | directed by Michael Moore
US/Can release: Oct 21 2016 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: direct to VOD

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: not rated

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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