Barack Obama is not yet out of the White House, but already Hollywood is trying to cement his status as a world-historical figure, a great man who will be studied and worshiped by school children forever more. The task is going to be a tough one. By every measure, the Obama presidency is a failure, leaving in its wake economic malaise at home and bloody chaos above. The current election has left Americans angrier and more bitterly divided than at any time since the 1960s.

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In any case, “Southside With You” has opened in theaters and it is such a reverential mess that even the New York Times finds fault with it.

The formative years of Barack Obama would be cinema gold if one could approach it with anything like honesty. How was it that a boy from a broken home with parental abandonment issues rose to become president of the United States with such dizzying speed? But, if one is to believe the newspaper of record, what theater-goers get instead in “Southside with You” is relentless hagiography usually reserved for indisputably great presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln.

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One of the problems that Times finds with the movie is that no tension exists in the story. The characters of Barack and Michelle are fully formed; he headed off for Harvard Law, she already practicing. They have no character flaws or any other obstacles to overcome. We know how the story ends, after all.

It’s not that presidential biops of flawed presidents have not succeeded. Vanity Fair notes that “Primary Colors,” which depicted the beginnings of the 1992 Clinton campaign with the names changed to protect the guilty, and did not shy away from the seamier side of the power couple who have dominated politics for the past 25 or so years.

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“Southside With You” contains no hint of the boiling rage that many have noted inside Obama, the need to take revenge and to remake the United States into something it is not and was never intended to be.

Needless to say, Hollywood is not going to offer of honest biops of great Republican presidents. The love story of Ronald and Nancy Reagan would be something to watch and cry over during the scenes from the winter of the Gipper’s life. But the man who won the Cold War and lifted the threat of thermonuclear annihilation from the planet is not likely to get the big-screen treatment he deserves, mores the pity.

 

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