Regina King outshines ‘Shirley,’ a narrow look at a trailblazing political legacy

Regina King outshines ‘Shirley,’ a narrow look at a trailblazing political legacy - Politics - News

Regina King’s stellar Performance in “Shirley” Outshines the Film Itself: A Narrow Focus on Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 Presidential Campaign

The captivating portrayal of Shirley Chisholm by Regina King in the biographical film “Shirley” has left critics and audiences raving, but some believe that the movie itself falls short of fully capturing the political trailblazer’s complex story. Directed by John Ridley, this intense look at Chisholm’s 1972 presidential campaign might have benefited from a more comprehensive exploration of her background and personal life.

The film kicks off with a brisk introduction to Chisholm’s longshot bid for the White House, as she remains steadfast in her convictions and decisions that sometimes confounded her advisors. Played predominantly by late Lance Reddick, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Terrence Howard, these advisers often found themselves at odds with Chisholm’s unyielding determination to address critical issues like school bussing and abortion.

Masterfully embodying Chisholm’s unique speech pattern, King’s portrayal gradually unveils details about the woman behind the candidate. From her strained relationship with her sister (played by King’s real-life sibling, Reina King) to Chisholm’s frequent frustration with her husband Conrad (Michael Cherrie), who poignantly articulates the burden of living in his wife’s shadow by stating, “A shadow of a man is what you want.”

“Shirley” effectively portrays the challenges Chisholm faced and the gritty realities of her underfunded, rough-and-tumble political campaign. The film also highlights intriguing exchanges that reflect lingering issues regarding allowing candidates to speak their minds versus what polls best.

However, the film occasionally falters in its narrow focus on Chisholm’s 1972 campaign and the Democratic National Convention. These stretches can feel weighed down by excessive detail, while some seemingly significant details are missed. For instance, the fact that eventual Democratic nominee George McGovern went on to suffer a devastating defeat after the convention is absent from the movie.

Memorial dedications in “Shirley” honor both Reddick and King’s son Ian, joining recent projects like Netflix’s “Rustin” and “On the Basis of Sex,” which celebrate iconic figures who challenged societal norms and racism, sexism, and bigotry in paving the way for future generations.

Despite its limitations, “Shirley” is a solid film that pays homage to Chisholm’s historical significance and offers an intriguing, albeit concentrated, glimpse into her impressive shadow.

“Shirley” premieres March 22 on Netflix.