If you’re in the camp that staunchly opposes Donald Trump for president, it’s easy to watch a minor documentary like “You’ve Been Trumped Too” and think of it in the “every little bit helps” category. That said, a nonfiction filmmaker who wants his piece of the Trump phenomenon now faces a major hurdle. The candidacy of Donald Trump — the belligerent bluster! the cracked policy statements! the sexual accusations! — has not exactly been an underexposed story over the last eight months. If you’re going to ask an audience to sit through 80 more minutes of Trump, you have to offer something new. Anthony Baxter, the director of “You’ve Been Trumped Too,” does (sort of): He serves up a situation, in Scotland, that would work just fine as a New York Times feature that took three-and-a-half minutes to read. The movie makes a good point, then makes it over and over again.
“You’ve Been Trumped Too” is a sequel to “You’ve Been Trumped,” a far superior 2011 movie in which Baxter chronicled the scandals — mostly environmental — surrounding the construction of Trump’s luxury golf course near the community of Balmedie. Five years ago, that movie was bringing the news, which is why it caused a real stir in Europe; this new one is trailing the news. Yet there’s a revealingly cruel anecdote at its center.
During the building of the golf course, Trump’s workers broke a pump and severed a pipe that delivered water to the farmhouse of Molly Forbes. In the five years since, the Trump organization promised to make repairs but never did, leaving Molly, now 92, and her son, Michael, high and dry. “You’ve Been Trumped Too” treats the situation as a microcosm of the not-so-hidden Trump philosophy: Truth doesn’t matter, greed rules, and if you aren’t powerful enough to hit back at Trump, then the hell with you. There have been media stories relating to Trump’s U.S. properties that cast him in a negative light, but in “You’ve Been Trumped Too,” we get to see, up close, the casual haughtiness of Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., an amateur big-game hunter — he shoots elephant for sport — who’s blasé in his dismissal of the Forbes’ claims. The Donald himself calls the Forbes farm trashy and decrepit (because there’s rusted machinery on the property), and his attitude is purged of compassion. The movie raises a valid question: If this is the dismissive way that the Trump empire treats a 92-year-old Scottish farm woman who can’t get water on her property, how would Trump, if elected, treat the American people?
All of this is established, and fully explored, in the film’s opening 20 minutes. So what happens next? Baxter, who has the self-serious polite diligence that’s the British equivalent of “NPR voice,” proceeds to do his half-baked version of pretending to be Michael Moore. He tries to interview Trump (and gets brushed aside), then he stalks him some more. But the way that Michael Moore works, he spins your attention right onto the filmmaker; that can be a justified strategy, but only if the movie makes it one. The way Baxter does it, it’s just a tic — look! I’m a muckraking gadfly! — and that’s because he’s not really investigating anything. He’s just trying to reveal what an arrogant stonewalling blowhard Donald Trump is.
To which the audience might respond: And this is news? Measured according to the yardstick of liberal agitprop, “You’ve Been Trumped Too” might be called a useful movie, but to this concerned and (at this point) slightly exhausted Trump watcher, it comes off as a thin didactic experience, one that in some ways misses the whole point. When Baxter stands at the gates of the White House, interviewing Trump fans and explaining, in arduous detail, about the scandal brewing in Scotland over the Forbes’ busted water-delivery system, he acts like he wants to change their minds, but the essential issue with Trump voters is that these people aren’t overly interested in facts.
“You’ve Been Trumped Too” finally lands at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, where Baxter has flown out the crusty, noble Michael Forbes, who hangs on the sidelines, arguing with Trump supporters, most of whom are unfailingly polite. Taken together with last week’s “Michael Moore in TrumpLand,” the sneak-attack doc that started off strong but turned into a damp-fuse propaganda mash note to Hillary (it came off as Moore presenting half the story of what he really believes), “You’ve Been Trumped Too” made me think about the documentary that our media culture, and our filmmakers, never gave us: a full-scale portrait of Trump’s supporters — not just the disgruntled-white-male clichés, but (dare I say it?) an empathetic look at what they’re thinking and feeling. You say they’re racist? Let’s truly look at what the racism is about. Let’s go somewhere that we haven’t been. But in an America that seemed, for a while, like it might truly be turning into Trump’s America, liberal audiences would do well to demand movies that do more than mirror themselves.