Brave New Films
Available Sept. 23 at slackeruprising.com
3.5 out of 5 stars
“There’s no crying in politics,” Michael Moore emphatically imparted to his legion of supporters who packed into the Michigan Theater for last night’s world premiere of “Slacker Uprising,” his new documentary. Though Moore uses the phrase often, “Slacker Uprising” — essentially a highlight reel of Moore’s failed attempt to turn the tide of the 2004 presidential election in John Kerry’s favor — gave it particular resonance. By the time Moore stepped down from the stage to let his new film screen, he had worked the audience into a frenzy that accurately predicted their response to the documentary.
While Moore’s past efforts have typically attempted to address weighty political issues in a comedic tone, he’s trimmed the fat on “Slacker Uprising” (but kept all of his own) and opted to focus his lens on the public circus his work generates rather than the matters it concerns. And since everyone should be familiar with the 2004 race, he made a wise choice in chronicling his 62-city get-out-the-vote tour by primarily focusing on the tour itself.
Really, “Slacker Uprising” is just a concert film. Moore embraced that notion, calling it his version of Neil Young’s legendary 1979 “Rust Never Sleeps” film. From handheld backstage footage and close-ups of politically possessed fans to local news coverage at many of the tour’s stops, the film attempts to exhaustively catalogue the zealous fire burning around Moore’s anti-Bush crusade. As much as Moore makes himself the star, the spectacle pervading his tour stops is given an equally distinguished role.
The supporting speeches of his kindred spirits are showcased — Viggo Mortensen’s remarks from Columbus are especially eloquent and Roseanne Barr’s sarcastic Tallahassee rant is the funniest portion of the film — and five full musical guest spots are featured, including songs from Eddie Vedder and Tom Morello. Of course, the most articulate pro-Kerry rally attendees are given face time to express their support, just as the pro-Bush faction members are permitted to embarrass themselves on screen with malapropisms and self-contradictions.
In a press conference scene, Moore refers to all of his films as “anti-propaganda,” but “Uprising” is really the first of his efforts to make a great claim at that higher ground. Nearly free of dubious statistics and accusatory insinuations, and keeping heartstring-tugs to a relative minimum, even most GOPers will have a difficult time dismissing the film as “liberal propaganda” like they have with his previous releases. He spends much of his breath imploring the news media to seek and demand truth from politicians — a cause that should be celebrated on both sides of the political aisle.
“Uprising” ‘s reminder of just how energetic the groundswell of support for the Kerry campaign was will surely be disheartening for many. Democrats will likely wonder if the present outpouring of Obama support will be in vain just as Kerry’s was four years ago. And “Uprising” gives them no real reason to feel otherwise besides a closing screen card predicting that this year Republicans “won’t be so lucky.”
“Bowling for Columbine” was widely chastised for not addressing its own questions, while “Farenheit 9/11” was denounced for arriving at unfounded answers. By casting serious questions aside, Michael Moore made “Slacker Uprising” both less essential and more accessible than his prior work. But just like all the other documentaries he’s released, “Slacker Uprising” will be rejoiced by his fans and sympathizers while it simultaneously offends those who loathe his politics and his existence.