Throughout his tenure as America’s most provocative political filmmaker, Michael Moore has had more successes than failures; “Roger & Me,” “Bowling for Columbine,” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” were all high points. The Donald Trump presidency seems to have stretched his creativity a bit thin; his live stage show taping from 2016, “Michael Moore in Trumpland,” provided a few laughs and nothing more. A Broadway show, however, has its own challenges, and Moore is learning this the hard way after a scathing review in The New York Times.
“Still, you don’t have to disagree with Mr. Moore’s politics to find that his shtick has become disagreeable with age,” wrote Times theater critic Jesse Green. “‘The Terms of My Surrender,’ which opened on Thursday at the Belasco, is a bit like being stuck at Thanksgiving dinner with a garrulous, self-regarding, time-sucking uncle. Gotta love him — but maybe let’s turn on the television.”
Relying on “hokey set pieces that fizzled,” and “old and obvious…targets” like Ronald Reagan and Glenn Beck, Moore’s humor was lacking either enough laugh lines or biting satire. “Almost any savvy talk show host does this kind of material much better…Frivolity, moral or otherwise, would be most welcome here,” wrote Green.
Other reviewers found much to admire in the “one-man revival-tent show,” as Variety called it, praising the “superior design team.” “[Moore] makes his revolutionary pitch with surprising sweetness,” wrote Marilyn Stasio. Meanwhile, Franck Scheck at The Hollywood Reporter called Moore “a warmly funny and engaging raconteur, presiding over an evening of surprising emotional depths.”
It may be that Green has reached his Moore tipping point, finding his moralizing overly self-aggrandizing:
“These moments suggest a thinking failure of his own: a failure to examine the inapt moral equivalences and disguised elitism inherent in his brand of provocation. The result is as confusing politically as it is theatrically. Audiences hoping for a bit of feel-good liberal therapy, let alone a good show, may be disappointed to find that Mr. Moore isn’t very interested in them. He’s not preaching to the choir: He’s bragging to it.”
Read the full review here, after you’ve scalped those tickets.