‘Becoming’ Hopeful with Michelle Obama

by Emily Siansky ’22

Former first lady of the United States  Michelle Obama released a documentary with Netflix on May 6 following stops on her book tour for her memoir, “Becoming.” The memoir recounts her experiences growing up in Chicago, going to college, married life, campaigning, and of course her time in the White House. The documentary, also titled “Becoming,” takes the viewer across the country following Obama through meetings, signing, and focus groups with teens when she was on tour during 2019. 

“Becoming” brings hope to such a dark and uncertain time. Although seeing large gatherings of people at Obama’s events is a little bittersweet, it is inspiring to see how good people are. In one scene, Obama is at a Barnes and Noble bookstore for a signing. All of her fans were met with a smile and a complement. People thanked Obama for writing about tough topics in her memoir such as infertility and marriage struggles, while others were starstruck. The small interactions between people of all different ages and backgrounds conveyed a sense of community and comfort that I have not felt in awhile. 

Clips from her tour stops were also quite entertaining. She held her book talks in huge areas with famous moderators such as Oprah Whinfrey, Steven Colbert, and Connan O’Brian. These clips were used in parts to explain parts of stories that were featured in the memoir, and to add more context as to what Obama was talking about in previous confessional style shots.

One of the most unique parts of the documentary were mini-profiles on two high school seniors from different parts of the county. Obama met these two young ladies through small breakout groups that their schools arranged. These girls from Chicago and Philadelphia, respectfully, both come from working class families that did not necessarily have imentaties or the deluxe things in life. 

Also in the breakout groups, Obama was asked many questions about living and finding her identity as an African-American woman. Most of the people selected to be in the groups were minorities such as African-Americans, Latinos, and women. Obama talked about her experiences growing up and having to work hard to be able to achieve her goals. She also explained that she had to learn to make herself proud independent of her successes or accomplishments. 

Though I think the documentary would be more enjoyable to those who have already read her memoir, everyone can enjoy the film. Major points in her life are reviewed again in the documentary, but you have a better background and appreciation if you have read her memoir. 

The documentary “Becoming” provides 90 minutes of inspiring moments. The themes of family and community will also appeal to everyone, as we have not been able to feel as connected to others through the quarantine. Whether it was Obama’s preaching and words of inspirations, or just seeing smiling faces, you surely will leave Netflix with a warm feeling inside.

Rating: A