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'Shirley' Review

LightsCameraJackson LightsCameraJackson Critic “Shirley” stars Academy Award winner Regina King as Shirley Chisholm. In 1968, she was the first African American woman elected to U.S. Congress, representing the state of New York. In 1972, she campaigned to run for President of the United States, hoping to secure the Democratic nomination. This film is mostly a chronicle of that campaign — the highs, the lows and the surprises.

It’s written and directed by John Ridley, who won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar a decade ago for “12 Years a Slave”. The first half-hour of “Shirley” is a little slow, dry and mellow. The dialogue throughout is the most underwhelming element — pretty pedestrian. “Shirley” isn’t a completely riveting movie, but it’s engrossing enough thanks to the performances, especially King. This is her first film in a few years, and just as she did in “If Beale Street Could Talk”, proves why she is one of the most powerful actresses working today. You stick with Shirley Chisholm the entire time. You believe her. You’re with her emotionally. King is the main reason to watch this, along with good supporting work from Lucas Hedges and Terrence Howard. The late Lance Reddick, in one of his final roles, also shines.

Obviously Ridley made this movie because Shirley Chisholm is an inspiration to so many people — opening doors and such an impact with her many terms in congress. But also, as the film progresses, we discover other reasons why this story has such significance. ’72 had the first Presidential election with 18-year-olds being allowed to vote. There’s the FCC and the commitment of equal time for all the candidates on different programs. Assassination attempts on multiple candidates. And there’s plenty of political backstabbing portrayed that we also witness in real-life and in these campaign run movies.

You may already know the outcome, but peeling back the layers of “Shirley”, and experiencing the performances, make it a recommendation.

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