Released: 6th May
Seen: 8th May
In November of 2008, America did something amazing. They elected their first black president, a major moment in history and a presidency that would’ve been important just for that alone if all Obama had done those 8 years was sit in the White House and eat cheerios. With Barrack Obama becoming president, this also meant that his wife Michelle Obama would go down in history as the first black woman to be first lady, another monumental moment on its own before you even factor in what was done over the next eight years.
Now, this is the part where I must stress that your and my opinions on what they did over those eight years do not matter in relation to this movie and I’m not here for a debate on the merits of what they did upon earning those positions of power. The indisputable fact is that just by existing as black people in those positions of power they were given a place in history and a serious narrative that still echoes to this day.
Becoming is a movie comprised of two key elements. The first is where the film gets its title from, the book that Michelle Obama wrote in 2018 which she promoted with a book tour in 2019. Throughout these sections we see her being interviewed by various people, little clips pulled from the 36 city tour to fill in the blanks. The second element of this documentary is an interview with Michelle talking about what she’s done since leaving the White House and what that eight years meant to her. This interview, cut up with the interviews on stage during the press tour, give us a glimpse into the personality and the beliefs of a woman who gave us the immortal saying “When they go low, we go high”, along with making grown adults cry by suggesting their kids should eat some broccoli every now and then.
The film tends to coast on personality, which is easy to do when you have a personality as charming as Michelle Obama’s to lean on. It’s not trying to be some deep expose, it’s just letting Michelle talk about her experiences and how being in the White House changed her and the specific ways she refused to let it change her family. We’re not here to do some deep history or some expose, none of that is wanted. It’s a woman telling us her experiences and just asking us to listen and it’s fascinating for a large amount of time… but there’s a catch.
You know how I said this film was a mixture of two different key elements? Well, the trick with that kind of film is how you blend those two elements together. It’s a film about a book tour, while also being about the author’s life and going between those is hard and that’s where this film kind of lost me. The blend between book tour and interview just never quite works and leads the film to feel a little flat in tone, which sucks because you should be rivetted when Michelle talks about things like her great great grandparents or how careful she had to be about not crying when she left the White House because the media would’ve played it as thought she was crying for a reason other than, ya know, she had to leave her home of 8 years.
Becoming is a generally fine movie, it’s not here to rock the boat or give any new info that we didn’t already know. It’s an hour and a half with an exceptionally likable person who is telling us stories about her life and that’s a fine way to spend 90 minutes. Would I have liked a documentary with a little more meat on its bones? Sure, but that’s not what I was going to get but what was available was just fine. It was soothing, relaxing and a generally interesting film. Didn’t need to be much more than that.