Michelle Obama Gets The Documentary Treatment In “Becoming”


In a very short period of time, former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have become a documentary force with their production company Higher Ground. Partnered with Netflix, they won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature last year (for American Factory), and are likely to be in Oscar contention again this year for Crip Camp. Now, today brings their most inward looking project yet, a companion piece to the First Lady’s book, Becoming. Though not necessarily informative, it’s a warm, enjoyable, and even inspiring look at one of the most admired and most important women on the face of the Earth. Hitting Netflix today, it’s a really good watch.

The film is a documentary, of course, focused on Michelle Obama, one of the most admired and well known people on the planet. Taking place during her 2019 book tour for Becoming, her best seller that hit shelves following Barack Obama leaving the Presidency after two terms, it functions as both a look forward at her goals, and also a look back at her life growing up. The camera takes us behind the scenes as she embarks on a huge, 34 city tour for the book, one that also aims to highlight the power of community. For Michelle, it’s all about a connection between people that allows us to bridge our differences and share our stories. Through it all, we just see who Michelle Obama is as a woman, as well as who she’s still becoming. Not as the First Lady. Not as an author. Just as Michelle Obama, plain and simple. Nadia Hallgren directs, while the Obamas serve as producers.

Michelle Obama has a captivating screen presence, whether it’s seeing her being interviewed on her book tour, seen in quiet moments, or anything in between. She’s also just really funny. Some of her most amusing moments come when volleying back and forth with her celebrity moderators, while on the book tour. Nothing revealed here with be surprising to anyone who has a basic knowledge of her, though that’s not the intent. A mix of companion piece to the book and celebrity profile, to that end, it’s a flick that’s incredibly successful at achieving its goals. This won’t be an awards player, but it’s another home run for Higher Ground, which so far can do no wrong.

Becoming is surprisingly free of politics. The name Donald Trump isn’t really heard, and Trump on the whole is barely a factor. This is far more about the woman that is Michelle Obama, as opposed to the Obama Presidency. To that end, you won’t get anything new about Barack Obama here, as this is thoroughly about Michelle. Her love for her family, her desire to impact the community, and in particular, to be a positive influence on younger people, especially women, comes across incredibly clearly. In the end, it’s clear to see that her life outside the White House isn’t going to be necessarily political, but is all the same hoping to change the world.

Now available on Netflix, Becoming is about 90 minutes spent with an amazing women. Whether you agree with her politics or not, whether you voted for her husband or not, it’s hard not to watch this movie and find Michelle Obama to be an inspirational (or even aspirational) figure. The doc may not teach you much in the way of new information about her, but it’s still well worth giving a look to, especially in light of how cold our current First Family is, by comparison. Even ignoring that, this is just a quality documentary, so give it a shot…

Be sure to check out Becoming, available to stream right now on Netflix!

(Photos courtesy of Netflix)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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