Tuesday morning, polarizing documentarian Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11) tweeted about a screening of “what I’ve been up 2” coming to the IFC Center in Manhattan later that night. What people found was a film called Michael Moore in TrumpLand, which he shot 11 days ago in Wilmington, Ohio, the site of his two-night one-man show for a primarily Republican-leaning audience. He is literally in the land of Donald Trump.
Despite the title, though, the majority of the 73-minute-long film isn’t about the Republican nominee. Instead, Moore, initially a Bernie Sanders supporter, directs his argument for becoming a Hillary Clinton voter to those on the fence. “This election is going be decided by whether people will stay home,” he said after the screening (via The L.A. Times). “I hope I can light a fire and get it out in the next weeks to millions of people.”
Michael Moore in TrumpLand begins screening for the public tonight at the IFC Center, with additional screenings in Los Angeles and a digital release. Here’s what critics think of the film.
Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times:
Mr. Moore has basically made an earnest but not very entertaining pro-Clinton campaign film, occasionally funny, momentarily heartfelt when he takes up the subject of universal health care and the lives lost for lack of it. Against the rest of his work (Bowling for Columbine, Roger & Me) it’s fairly tepid stuff.
Owen Glieberman, Variety:
The film starts off as a winningly acerbic piece of political theater, but it turns into the story of a religious conversion. Moore wants to do everything he can to steer the sympathies of the audience toward Hillary. He musters a convincing and highly moral defense of Clinton, talking about how unfairly she was humiliated by the press during the ’90s. He pays justified homage to the compassion she poured into her commitment to health care, and he’s cheeky in confronting conspiracy legends — the kind that fuel Trump voters — like the notion that Vince Foster was murdered. Did Hillary kill Vince Foster? “I hope she did!” says Moore. “Because that’s badass.”
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter:
Featuring a mixture of stand-up comedy, political observation and ultimately a full-throttle tribute to Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore in TrumpLand earns points for ultra-timeliness and its admirable attempt to raise the level of discourse in this deeply polarizing election. But despite Moore’s obvious desire to reach out to Trump voters, disaffected Bernie followers, those leaning toward third-party candidates and people who intend to sit out the election entirely, this cinematic lecture is unlikely to change many hearts or minds…which is more the pity.
Jennifer Merin, The Wrap:
Moore’s humor creates common ground. Everybody in the filmed audience and the IFC Center audience laughed together, bridging the gap between the people on screen and in the house. That’s a rare accomplishment in cinema, even in acclaimed concert films or, on a more serious note, Al Gore’s successful one-man lecture An Inconvenient Truth.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire:
TrumpLand won’t be remembered as a great comedy. Moore’s aw-shucks brand of political sarcasm is best served with a healthy dose of righteous anger (it’s no accident that Bowling for Columbine and Sicko are his funniest films), and while his decision to cut Trump out of the conversation allows him to make a more direct appeal to the most vulnerable voters, it certainly dulls the knife he always uses to cut into the greed and cynicism that has crusted around the country he loves.
Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian:
What’s a little cringeworthy, though, is the repeated use of audience reaction shots. Every talking point is met with an assertive head nod, tissue-dabbed cheek or virtuous applause. It’s like that Monty Python clip of the old ladies clapping, but twice as hilarious, unintentional though that may be. Moore does get serious, and when he does, his Holy Roller for the ethical culture set schtick works.