Netflix has built a reputation for producing some of the best series, but most critics and subscribers agree that their original movies tend to be subpar. Recent Netflix movies like The True Memoirs of an International Assassin and Mercy were panned by critics and audiences alike, while the majority of their series receive rave reviews. Where many people feel that Netflix puts a lot of effort in their series, making them truly original in every sense of the word, most feel they tend to phone-it-in when it comes to their movies. But Barry is a step up from the usual formulaic Netflix movies; albeit, a very small step.
Thus far, the film has a rating of 74 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and the site provides the premise for the newest addition to original Netflix movies.
“Vikram Gandhi directed this biopic about Barack Obama (Devon Terrell), which focuses on his life as a student at Columbia University in 1981 New York City. There, the future president (then known as Barry) struggles to figure out his identity as he moves between various different communities and social circles. Anya Taylor-Joy, Ashley Judd, Jason Mitchell, and Ellar Coltrane co-star.”
The director of the film, Vikram Gandhi, is an award-winning filmmaker most known for his documentary Kumaré. Like President Obama, Gandhi also attended Columbia University and lived close to where Obama had lived 17 years prior. Recently, Gandhi spoke to A.V. Club about making his first narrative feature for Netflix.
“I really was trying to use a different part of my brain. Kumaré was my first film, and I was able to really flex both this side of me that loves fantasy and larger-than-life, otherworldly characters, and real people. And then I’ve been working at Vice for the last couple of years, and that is focused on getting to the truth. So in a way, this was a way of trying to exercise the other part of my brain.”
The character of Barry is portrayed by Devon Terrell, and this is his first major role. Co-starring alongside Terrell is Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) who plays Charlotte, Obama’s girlfriend during his freshman year of college. And Ashley Judd has a cameo portraying Barry’s mother.
Unlike most Netflix movies, Barry has a cast that gives strong performances, and it helps the film feel very real. Per her usual, Taylor-Joy gives a great performance. For his first mainstream outing, Terrell gives a powerful portrayal of Obama, and he definitely looks and sounds like the young president.
The premise of the story is great: A coming of age tale that provides great social commentary for racial identity, as well as racial issues in America that is much needed in a modern era. But the movie doesn’t become as dramatic or as engaging as it should. Aside from a few tidbits, unless the audience has no knowledge of Obama’s story, the film doesn’t do much for the viewers to learn anything new about the president.
Is It Worth Watching
Even decent Netflix movies like ARQ and Spectral are formulaic and provide nothing that hasn’t been seen before. Why watch the time-loop movie ARQ, made in the vein of Edge of Tomorrow, when a viewer can just watch Edge of Tomorrow. But Barry is different. This is just the second film made about Obama (the first being Southside with You), and although it lacks new insight, Barry is still a good story worth watching. As far as Netflix original movies go, Barry is possibly their best one.
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[Featured Image by Netflix and Spencer Platt/Getty Images]