‘Michael Moore in TrumpLand’
Director: Michael Moore
Star: Michael Moore
3 (out of 5) Globes
Michael Moore is charming. Perhaps that’s not an adjective many would use. He’s a firebrand, a rabble-rouser, the Webster’s picture for outspoken lefty. Such terms are not unearned; we usually see him at his most pugilistic. But when it’s a one-on-one interview, or if he’s addressing a group of people and not the whole world, he dials back the anger and amps up the charm. His flirty, infamous-to-Breitbarts interview with Megyn Kelly is a good example: Moore can, in the right situation, break down the defenses of someone opposed to everything he stands for, even connect with them — at least until he gets back on his high horse.
Unaccountably, it’s the charming side that’s (mostly) is on display in “Michael Moore in TrumpLand,” his surprise, 11th-hour anti-The Donald movie, which turns out to be nothing more than a recorded live show. Moore takes the stage at a modest theater in Wilmington, Ohio, smack-dab in Clinton County, which, he points out, is firmly pro-Trump. The crowd is mixed, but, surprisingly, mostly red. But he hasn’t ambushed them, and he isn’t there to rail against them for falling for a conman. He isn’t even preaching to the choir, despite knowledge that this show was bound for iTunes and art house theaters located in the Gommorahs on the twin coasts.
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What Moore’s trying to do, whether such a thing is even possible at this late date, is find common ground with people the left assumes no longer shares the same DNA, let alone political beliefs. When he begins, Moore baits the Trump voters a bit, joking about the Hispanic group in the balcony next to a clump of Muslims. The big, open grin on his face tells them it’s all in good fun, and he proceeds to use that good will to loosen them up, even dismantle arguments without making them clam up. He jokes about how he, too, is technically an “angry white guy,” whom “mother nature has decided is bad for the planet.” He acknowledges their legitimate concerns about the economy. Only then does he point out that Trump is not the answer to their problems. A Trump win, he says, “will be the biggest FU ever recorded in human history. And it will feel good … for a day. Possibly a month.” After all, voting for Brexit probably felt good, too.
If nothing else, “TrumpLand” is proof that Moore knows how to work a room. Throwing himself into hostile territory, he’s clearly aware he’s not going to create a theater full of flip-floppers. At best he can loosen up those stewing in their seats with crossed arms and pissy faces. The laughter isn’t uproarious, but it’s better than expected; ditto the applause, which is light but enthusiastic. He finds ways to get into the good graces of people who likely came to hate-watch. He knows he needs to list the problems even he has with Hillary, for whom he brags he’s never voted. He says some nice things about Dubya. He jokes, “I’m glad she killed Vince Foster!”, because that means having a murderer in office would make ISIS "s—."
Moore doesn’t always have a great rep with the cool left, but in “TrumpLand” he’s trying to do something almost no one of his ilk is doing: He’s actually talking to the other side, trying to appeal to their better natures. As we surely all know by now, we all of us live in a virtual bubble. Algorithms have separated us online; in the real world, we pick where we live by which party we vote for. Sorry, but thosehilarious and scathing anti-Trump tweets you've been tweeting or those John Oliver video you keep posting on Facebook aren't going to reach those who might really need it. Not that they’d change their minds anyway.
Of course, “TrumpLand” isn’t going to be seen by any Trumpee except those in the audience. The minds it could change, however, are those already in his choir: It asks the left to try another method to reach those we assume are unreachable. Trump may (or may not!) get massacred by Hillary in less than a fortnight, but the damage to political discourse has already been done; Pandora’s box is open, and the sleeper cells have been activated. The worst instincts of Trump voters have been unleashed, and who knows what horrorshow America will turn into even if we get an osteinsble happy ending on Nov. 8. We have to find another way to deprogram them. We don’t need to become Michael Moore, but what he does in “TrumpLand” is a good start.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge