John Ridley’s “Shirley” presents the story of Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 presidential campaign. This was Chisholm’s run for president and “Shirley” portrays her tenacity against misogynoir that sought to stifle her efforts and acknowledge her courage as she tried to be a pioneer and emblem of political hope. However, just like in last year’s “Rustin”, Netflix’s formula has a glaring flaw which is evident in “Shirley”: a tasteless, neutered style of storytelling.

“Shirley” opens with Chisholm entering Congress and taking part in a group photo on Capitol Hill steps. Her shoulders are held high among the sea of white men surrounding her, and when demeaning remarks are made towards her, she responded with dignified pride and an unwavering gaze. Immediately, “Shirley” establishes its lead as unmovable.

It quickly moves to the beginning of her race for president where it becomes the crux of this film. It shows how Shirley co-opts others into joining: Conrad (Michael Cherrie), Wesley McDonald Holder (Lance Reddick) who advises Hardwick Jr., Arthur (Terrence Howard), a young lawyer with great aspirations, Robert Gottlieb (Lucas Hedges) – he understands youth pulse well enough to see what they care about most often. They know why she will always be an outsider running but together we have listed many causes beside social ones such as gender or racial issues; another major drawback is that out other than being member House Representatives one-term she had no experience politics.

However, Shirley knew people hence believed that politics belonged to ordinary people. Clearly there were no laws restricting her manner as she even advised Gottlieb at some point that being humble is its own form of arrogance. In essence this movie does not only express extraordinary admiration for its protagonist but also serves as a just a history class since it only briefly mentions a few notations in time instead of highlighting the woman herself during this span of time.

“Shirley” sees itself as an energetic political report on air, but is unable to provide the details that would make it anything more than a historical summary. It’s terribly one note, holding back on nuance and earned emotion and instead swapping it for ham-fisted bullet points and forced pathos. From our knowledge of Shirley, all we know is her determination and her timeline. It hardly offers more inspiration than her Wikipedia page would, and this watered down, speedy treatment of an American heroine is sigh-worthy.

Excellent actors, unfortunately, did not rescue “Shirley” because the script is event-oriented rather than character-centered, missing that it is the subjects that make up a story. The film’s portrayal of Shirley as a character feels like a draft with only headlines receiving attention. It implies deeper meanings through Chisholm’s resentful sister and unhappy husband yet even in such personal moments (that remain mostly unexplored), the conversations sound painfully artificial. By stubbornly using Chisholm as an icon instead of making her wholly explored, the script loses much depth. At the forefront are her indomitable belief and ambition, however even with King trying to do something about it; repeated one-liners and stiff upper lip reduce Shirley to an uncomplicated character which further leads to an underwhelming performance.

The hole in our emotional investment into Shirley comes from this failure to write as though she were a complete person. Regina King does a great job of playing fiery passion and spunk as she speaks Chisholm’s words with an intensity that seems to come out of deep within herself. However, unfortunately for her emotional performance and commitment, this movie confuses achievement with persona thereby betraying its audience in return.

Watch free movies on Fmovies

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top