Michael Moore in Trumpland

Michael Moore has mellowed -- and mostly stopped playing dumb. His new film, a present-tense rah-rah-Hillary insta-job put together on the schedule of an episode of South Park, seems from its title to promise the provocations of his early work, another round of the prankish lefty everyshlub wandering a red state, humiliating the powerful, hugging down-and-out workers, fast-and-loosing his facts, cutting his Mother Jones certitude with empathetic humor (good!) and put-on naïveté (grating!).

Michael Moore in Trumpland is a welcome change, a filmed Moore stage performance from October 8 of this godawful year, the very day the world heard Trump brag to a Bush cousin that he routinely subjected women to sexual assault. The biggest surprise: Older, un-messianic and mostly eschewing cute stunts, Moore somehow makes his one-man show seem almost humble. It plays less like "I'm still here!" attention-seeking than it does a concerned citizen's act of hope.

The film is something of a soliloquy adaptation of ideas Moore championed in his turn-of-the-century bestsellers Downsize This! and Stupid White Men. The key topics: The death of white dudes' power, which he welcomes, and the promise of Hillary Clinton, whom he touts as a potential Pope Francis -- a secret progressive who only leaves the down-low once ensconced in power.

That's naïve, of course, but here, addressing an Ohio audience that includes some Trump-curious voters, he mostly avoids playing dumb. Moore's performance finds him as gadfly cheerleader rather than campaign surrogate. He goes all in on his upbeat humanity, the key ingredient that has kept right-wing imitators like Dinesh D'Souza from reaching an audience beyond their echo chambers.


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