Starring: Tika Sumpter, Parker Sawyers, Taylar Fondren
Directed by: Richard Tanne (debut)
Written by: Richard Tanne (“Worst Friends”)
Barack Obama is one sweet-talking, smooth operator.
That is, at least, how writer/first-time director Richard Tanne wants audiences to perceive him in the dialogue-driven film “Southside for You,” a short and sweet look at the first date of U.S. President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama, before they became the iconic couple they are today.
The film follows a young Barack and Michelle (Robinson is her maiden name) in Chicago as they spend the day together, visiting an art museum, having lunch in the park, attending a community activist meeting, and going to the movies to see Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.” At this point in their lives, Barack is two years away from graduating from Harvard and comes back to Chicago to work at a law firm for the summer. Michelle, a lawyer at the same law firm, is appointed to serve as his advisor while he is employed there.
After a month of trying to get Michelle (Tika Sumpter) to go out with him, Barack (Parker Sawyers, who hits Obama beat for beat) finally succeeds under the guise they will only be attending a local meeting. Michelle has no interest in dating men she works with, so they both agree that they are not on “a date,” until Michelle deems it one.
Although only 84-minute long, “Southside with You” brims with smartly-written conversations and subtly funny moments that make it easy to hope for the best for the young couple. It’s not a perfect date by any means, which makes Tanne’s film even more intriguing and realistic. During one scene driving in his beat-up car, Barack tries to tell Michelle about why she is not happy litigating corporate law, which doesn’t sit well with her (although it’s obviously true). During these few scenes where the future First Couple draw emotion out from one another—whether it’s anger, sadness or fascination—is when “Southside with You” feels the most genuine.
Think of it as another “Before Sunrise” if Jesse and Celine became one of the most famous pair of spouses in the entire world. No matter what your politics, “Southside with You” is about as adorable as a first date as anyone can wish for. If you think about it, it’s literally the most successful, real-life meet-cute ever put on screen.