More notable for the stealth with which it was produced than its content, “Michael Moore in TrumpLand” is less a movie than a filmed concert by someone who is more accomplished as a showman than a stage performer.
A mere 72 minutes, the film opens with snippets of comments from Donald Trump supporters in Wilmington, Ohio, where Moore appeared in a theater with the words “Trump Voters Welcome” plastered across the marquee. “He didn’t get it handed down to him like Hillary did from her parents,” one Trump backer says.
Moore begins the conversation in conciliatory fashion, saying he welcomes having a range of opinion represented there. Even his nod to Trump’s more polarizing statements – segregating the Muslims and “Mexicans” in the audience, and erecting a cardboard wall around the latter – is played for laughs, described as a means of making the Trump faithful comfortable.
Yet if what emerges isn’t as blatantly disrespectful toward the GOP nominee as some might surmise from the title and messenger, it’s also an unqualified endorsement of Hillary Clinton, liberally peppered with detours into Moore’s progressive agenda.
Standing behind a lectern, and occasionally shifting to a desk or easy chair, Moore admits at the outset that he has never voted for either Clinton. Before it’s over, though, he’s expressed unvarnished admiration for Hillary and laid out what amounts to his own liberal fantasy about her possible presidency and America’s future, with tongue slightly in cheek.
Having long been a voice for those disenfranchised by corporate greed, Moore says he harbors sympathy for Trump voters who want to send a message, calling their anger “righteous” and “justifiable.” He paints that act of defiance as similar to the Brexit vote, where the catharsis quickly gave way to second-guessing and regrets.
Serving as writer, producer, director and star, Moore drops a few video clips into the presentation, including a brief interview with Trump from 1998. Other than that, the only attempt to keep things visually interesting hinges on frequent reaction shots from the crowd.
Moore’s haste in shooting, assembling and distributing the project – billed as an “October surprise” – was certainly attention-grabbing, given the feelings stirred up by the current campaign. Having supported Bernie Sanders, Moore’s argument primarily functions as a last-minute pitch to those on the left clinging to doubts about Clinton.
The filmmaker’s trip to “TrumpLand,” however, ultimately feels like a mostly wasted journey. And one can admire the logistics – or even share the political sentiments – without thinking much of the film.
“Michael Moore in TrumpLand” is receiving a limited theatrical run and available online.