Front Row at the Movies
“Southside With You”
Takes You on a Date
With a Future President
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
It seems to me like a bad business proposition: making a movie about a sitting president. You lose half the audience, i.e. those moviegoers who belongs to the opposing party.
C’mon, can you imagine a staunch Trump supporter wanting to spend 1 hour and 24 minutes with a young Barak Obama and Michelle on a first date in the Southside of Chicago?
That’s the premise of “Southside With You,” the sweet little movie that’s playing this week at Tropic Cinema.
It could have been titled “A Date With Michelle,” for that’s the substance of this outing on a summer afternoon in 1989 when the future President of the United States went on an epic date with his future First Lady.
According to director-writer Richard Tanne, this was a pivotal point of young Barry’s life.
“Something else is pulling at me,” he says to his pretty date. “I wonder if I can write books or hold a position of influence in civil rights.”
“Politics?” she asks.
“Maybe,” he shrugs.
This is one of those walk-and-talk movies that focus on the conversation of two young lovers. Think: “Before Sunset.” Or “Before Midnight.”
The pair shares their histories (he from Hawaii and Indonesia; she from Chicago’s Southside), their aspirations, their political sensibilities, their growing attraction for each other.
Richard Tanne has found two winsome stand-ins for the real couple. Parker Sawyers (“Zero Dark Thirty,” “Survivor”) makes a convincing Barack Obama, ears and all; Tiki Sumpter (“Ride Along,” TV’s “Gossip Girl”) has the powerful persona of the young Michelle Robinson.
In 1989 Michelle was already a working lawyer. Barack Obama was attending Harvard. She’s an advisor at the firm where he’s a summer associate. She worries that their dating would be “inappropriate,” but he’s a smooth talker, reciting Gwendolyn Brooks’s short poem “We Real Cool.”
Tanne’s fictional recounting of this first date is a stacked deck, laying out the cards that foretell a path to the White House. This low-key date turns out to be more a political forecast than romantic interlude. But I didn’t mind the stroll down memory lane.
While Republicans may not buy a ticket, or read this review, many Dems will. As for an ol’ Independent like me, I’d love to read a review of “Southside With You” written by either Barack or Michelle.