(director/writer: John Ridley; cinematographer: Ramsey Nickell; editor: JoAnne Yarrow; music: Tamar-Kali; cast: Regina King (Shirley Chisholm), Lance Reddick (Wesley McDonald “Mac” Holder), Terrence Howard (Arthur Hardwick Jr.), Andre Holland (Walter Fauntroy), Lucas Hedges (Robert Gottlieb), Reina King (Muriel St. Hill), Michael Cherrie (Conrad Chisholm), Christina Jackson (Barbara Lee), Dorian Crossmond Missick (Ron Dellums), Amirah Vann (Diahann Carrol), W. Earl Brown (George Wallace), Charlene R. Willis (Ruby), Brian Stokes Mitchell (Stanley Townsend), Ken Strunk (John W. McCormick), Brad James (Huey Newton); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Elizabeth Haggard, Regina King, Anikah McLaren, John Ridley; Netflix; 2024)

“A well-made but pedestrian political docudrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A well-made but pedestrian political docudrama about the 1972 Presidential Campaign that’s directed and written by the novelist John Ridley (“Needle in a Timestack”/”Jimi: All Is By My Side”). The conventional by-the-book film tells the pioneering political story of Shirley Chisholm (Regina King), the Congresswoman from Brooklyn. She was the first Black woman in Congress (1968) and the first to make a presidential run for the nomination of a major party–the Democratic party (where she stood no chance of winning). The Democrat chosen was George McGovern, who lost in a landslide to Nixon. Shirley if nominated would have lost by even more.

The feisty but uptight Shirley ran on a platform of race and gender equality, billing herself as a “catalyst for change.”

Regina King captures the energy Shirley had, but the flat script is a let down. Only in odd scenes do we see her trans-formative power be a force.

Shirley is the former day-care supervisor from the Bed-Stuy slum, a devout Christian, who tries to navigate the politics of the day–from dealing with white supremacists like George Wallace (W. Earl Brown) to the radical Black power leader of the Black Panthers, Huey Newton (Brad James).

The filmmaker offers a positive only view of the outspoken politician.

The scene that has the Congresswoman, when first elected, ask the Speaker of the House to change her agriculture committee assignment, sets the positive tone on covering Shirley.

It’s a safe film that refrains from taking a deep dive into Shirley, instead of being like the real Shirley and not playing it safe.
REVIEWED ON 3/28/2024  GRADE: B-/