Dropping a new movie without warning, Beyoncé-style, may count as an “October surprise” when it comes from political provocateur Michael Moore, but what’s even more surprising about Michael Moore in TrumpLand is its optimism. Who is this sweet guy? The filmmaker uses Donald Trump's name as a grabber for his title but he’s made a mash note to Hillary Clinton. A live performance recorded at a venue in conservative rural Ohio, Moore’s project—in which he delivers a roughly hour-long comic monologue à la the late Spalding Gray—is an unabashed piece of political activism arriving three weeks before the election.
Yet after sassing his crowd with some of the lefty zingers they no doubt expected (“Mexican”-looking attendees are asked to sit in a special section behind a giant wall), Moore launches into a fairly straightforward defense of Clinton as someone worth admiring. He’s essentially mounting a conversational workshop, with the onscreen audience members serving as surrogates for us moviegoers: Moore walks right up to the edge of the stage and asks people why they hate Hillary. It’s a ballsy, direct confrontation, one that brings out the best of Moore’s blue-collar, guy-from-Flint-Michigan straightforwardness.
As for his answers? Those will affect viewers in different ways. To hear Moore speak feelingly about the candidate's thick-skinned generation of working women—such as his own mother who took a lot of abuse and still fought on—it’s impossible not to get swept up in his celebratory air. Then again, he barely touches upon the more radical campaign of Bernie Sanders, to which he once pledged allegiance. TrumpLand has shoddy sound and visual transitions; it’s a little crude, like a single-use Wet-Nap. It won’t have any currency come mid-November, except as the expression of a filmmaker who tried to convince as many people as possible that it was okay to love the lesser of two evils. She might even deserve it.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf