Maybe Summer 2016 won’t be a total wash after all…
“Southside with You” focuses on the first date between Barack and Michelle Obama in Chicago in 1989. Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter star as Barack and Michelle, respectively, as Richard Tanne writes and directs.
The concept for this film may seem either simplistic to a fault or just plain stupid, focusing an entire film on one day of a real life couple’s lives. And “Southside” could have fallen victim to that or to pandering towards the people on which it’s based, however it doesn’t. Two solid central performances and a smart, witty script make this an enjoyable little film and a fantastic way to close out the summer.
Even Barack Obama’s harshest critics admit he is a great speaker and seems like a cool guy to hang out with and those traits are on full display here. Sawyers has the charm and ear-to-ear grin that everyone has come to associate with Mr. President, and it is uncanny how much he looks, talks and even walks like him. He and Sumpter (who looks nothing like Michelle Obama but that’s not really here nor there) have great give-and-take and really do a good job selling the reluctance on Michelle’s part to finally go on a date with Barack and his confident determination to get her to say yes.
A lot of their chemistry is due to fun and engaging banter from rookie writer-director Richard Tanne. Tanne’s script has some very solid dialogue and features some smart social commentary (Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” plays a part in the film and it’s sad to see how relevant a 27-year-old film still is today).
Some scenes drag on for too long (especially Barack’s speech at a community event) and that is likely to (a) get the film to an acceptable theatrical runtime (it clocks at a breezy 81 minutes) and (b) because Tanne is directing his own script, he wanted to include as much of what he wrote as possible (like Tarantino but less pretentious). The ending of the film is also slightly abrupt but, like, we know how this story ends, no need to tie up all loose ends or give an epilogue.
I was pleasantly surprised with “Southside with You” and really encourage you to check it out, as a date movie or otherwise. I really enjoyed the script and the film is set over the colorful backdrop of Chicago and foot-tapping 1980s music. There have been better rom-coms in cinematic history and there are more adorable couples than the Obamas in history history, but when partnered together the end result is one of the year’s better films.
Critics Rating: 7/10