Trump is the oaf. Obama is the star. Michelle is the superstar behind the star in the galaxy of the American Presidency. At least, that’s the impression you get on Becoming, Nadia Hallgren’s rookie documentary centred around the former first lady’s 34-city tour for the release of her eponymous memoir, which sold 1.4 million copies in its first week. Barack has only a minor guest appearance, as he says, “like Jay-Z coming out at the Beyoncé concert.” The book tour is just the context.
The focus is on Brand Michelle. Hallgren has crafted a new myth. Michelle was the most powerful and impactful US presidential spouse after Jacqueline Kennedy, though her style quotient didn’t please Fox News (until the shimmering thigh high Balenciaga boots did the trick during her book tour chat with Sarah Jessica Parker). The film is an honest account of the ‘becoming’ of Michelle, from overcoming racism and misogyny to her Princeton days to Pennsylvania Avenue to the post White House time.
Melissa Winter, senior advisor, speaks of Michelle’s nervousness during presidential campaigns to becoming the darling of liberal America. Hallgren captures the poignant loneliness of the attorney thrust into the harsh limelight of Washington’s power universe: Michelle would call Secret Service agent Allen Taylor her brother. Disappointingly, the film has gone easy on the family front with a few pastiches of light dining table conversations and an old family home visit. Don’t miss the wry humour: no sleepover party with friends for her daughter because the Trumps were coming to dinner. As she gets on board Air Force One for the last time, Mrs Obama sobs. “It was a release of eight years of trying to do everything perfectly,” she said. Goodbye to all that? Only the next four years will tell.
Directed by: Nadia Hallgren