Barry

BARRY IS NOT ABOUT HAPPINESS IN NEW YORK CITY
After time in Honolulu, Jakarta, and Los Angeles, Barry Obama (magnificently played by Devon Terrell) hops a plane to the Big Apple on a day near his 20th birthday to go to Columbia College so he can advance intellectual pursuits. Director Vikram Gandhi seeks to explain how Barry (as he has been known thus far in his life) felt in a noisy city of aggressive and opinionated rudeness after a previous life in more blissful surroundings and friendly people. He discovers that there are many “scenes” in New York. He is expected to fit into one of them. But he cannot. Upon entering the grounds of Columbia, he is only one asked by a security guard to show an ID to prove he belongs. Saleem (Avi Nash), the Pakistani guy who offered to house him is not home, so his first night is on a bench with his handbag and suitcase. Instead of being treated as a smart guy in college, he is perceived as “speaking for all Black people.” And then someone in class, Charlotte (Anya Taylor-Joy) begins to fall in love with him: He has no idea why, but she is obviously fascinated by his cool, sweet personality, unlike anyone she has ever met in New York, though evidently her onetime five-day trip to Kenya brings back good memories. A spoiled rich daughter of a millionaire, she has never met anyone so decent in her life. But as she introduces him to White high society, he realizes that he does not fit in, being treated racially rather than as a person. (Before meeting him, her father tips him $5 in the bathroom for responding to his request for a paper towel.) When she later confesses, “I love you,” Barry says “Thank you.” She is just unable to offer the charisma that she sees in him. Meanwhile, his Black friends show him around to noisy nights of entertainment of various sorts. Two aggressive Blacks hit him, but he picks himself up without anger and moves on. His mom visits. He learns that his dad died. When Barry ends, he is just beginning to figure out that he can no longer continue as an observer in crazy New York. During the film he hints that he will buckle down and study without distractions in his senior year of college. And he did. After graduation, he got an ordinary office job in New York, but he was not ordinary amid the self-centered people of New York.  One day he left Manhattan chaos to work in Chicago, where he indeed finally felt at home in the African American community. The point of the film seems to be that he found that he is an American with such a diverse background that New York’s parochialism and sickness, an island of seeming assholes, were in such sharp contrast to diverse and warm-hearted Honolulu that his image of an ideal society was in sharp contrast with a country in serious decline.  MH