At a mere 143 minutes, Frederick Wiseman’s 43rd documentary, Monrovia, Indiana, is his shortest film in 25 years. It’s also Wiseman’s first film since 2010’s Boxing Gym to be set in the middle of the U.S. rather than a coast, and in a milieu that lacks the diversity of Wiseman’s last two films, In Jackson Heights and Ex Libris: The New York Public Library. In his usual way, Wiseman’s camera travels through the environs in a series of languid tableaus, occasionally going inside a building to watch white people going on about their lives.
As the saying goes, there’s not as much there there, and it’s almost aggressively apolitical. Exactly when it was filmed is unclear, but we know that these are the demographics who voted for Trump. (When the first person of color appears in the form of a wedding singer, it’s almost jarring.) The viewer never gets the sense that, say, what restroom a given trans person uses will affect the lives of Monrovia’s citizens in any way — with the exception of the teenagers seen in the local high school, some of whom are statistically queer. Monrovia, Indiana is a portrait of a place that looks nice to be from, but maybe not one that should determine the fate of the nation.
Not rated. Opens Friday at the Opera Plaza Cinema.