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Michelle Obama's 'Becoming' panned as promotional video showing a 'manicured version' of former first lady

The Netflix documentary has failed to create as much buzz as her memoir of the same name and critics have deemed it ‘routine’ and ‘obligatory’
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Michelle Obama's documentary ‘Becoming’ dropped on Netflix on May 6, but has failed to create as much buzz as her memoir of the same name and critics have deemed it as ‘routine’ and ‘obligatory’. The documentary was a surprise announcement in late April from the online platform in conjunction with the Obamas' Higher Ground Productions.

Directed by Nadia Hallgren, the film showed the former first lady’s 2018 book tour in which she traveled across the country speaking at various events. It also highlights the 56-year-old having intimate conversations with everyday people. 

Unlike the accolades garnered by her book, 'Becoming', the film, left critics and followers of the former first lady disappointed. As per reports, the major drawback of the feature is that it doesn't give people any rare, unfiltered look into the personal lives of the Obama family or provide an analysis of whether Michelle is in a favorable position to enter the political realm herself.

“It won’t surprise anyone that it plays like an extended promotional video, a cross between close-contact hero worship and inspirational infomercial. There are no big revelations here, no gotcha moments or intimate scenes in which Hallgren’s subject lets down her guard, but the target audience hardly expects anything tougher,” Variety wrote in its review.

“Far more than the memoir, the film presents a manicured version of the way Michelle Obama sees herself — and yet, even such a carefully image-managed impression can be telling, since it diverges so significantly from the way the world perceives her,” it added.

Other outlets also seemed to agree with Variety’s review as they criticized the documentary for focusing on a major political figure but somehow managing to avoid taking a stand on any real political agenda or message.

“‘Becoming’ doesn’t pull back the White House curtain that much, and, unlike ‘Becoming’ the book there's almost no mention of her husband’s successor — except in warning of the nation we are and need to own up to.

“Nor, for that matter, is the candidate many thought would be Barack Obama’s successor brought up, or other political luminaries – it is as if the film and its subject are extending the protective force field that surrounds any First Family to silence the sidekicks, so to speak. There is the obligatory visit to the childhood home, the long talking-head stare by the star that contemporary documentaries love to show intimacy, and some glory shots of the accession and the two terms in office,” Deadline said in its review piece.

While The New York Times commented: “The film is being billed as a ‘rare and up-close look’ at the former first lady’s life. But, whereas the memoir — through its deeply personal stories about Obama’s existential struggles in young adulthood and the pains of a miscarriage later on — offered a partial illumination of a woman who critics and admirers alike have tried to understand for years, the documentary feels more routine.”

“‘Becoming’ is an act of legacy burnishing, no doubt, but it doesn’t feel like it’s laying the groundwork for a future campaign from its subject, no matter how adored it makes her look. Instead, it’s more of an insistent feature-length case for the family having done and given, enough," Vulture added.