Southside With You Review
There aren't too many things can be more riveting or nerve-racking than a first date. A first date can be go one in about a million different ways and there is absolutely no way of telling where a first date will go until you actually participating in the event. I am happy to say that every first date I ever went on turned out okay for myself. But I will admit that I was always a shy, nervous person and I was always doubting myself. I didn't find my confidence until I was much older. There is no telling how many internal conversations I had with myself to keep things together.
"Southside With You" is about a first date. It doesn't start out as a first date, but gradually turns into a date for both parties. The couple in question just happens to be Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson. As the film begins, we learn that Michelle is a young lawyer who works with an associate Barack Obama and they get together to go to a work-related, convention together. The thing is, Barack (Parker Sawyers) knows the convention isn't until much later in the day, while Michelle (Tika Sumpter) didn't want this to be a date at all, she agrees to hang out with him the whole, as friends. She doesn't seem to want anything serious. They go to an Afro-Centric exhibit at an art center, they go to a movie, and they even get ice cream. They spend the entire day together. We see how each person gets read for the day. We listen to their conversations, mostly about family, pasts and dreams though. There is very little politics in the film, which is a good move. There is really no need to alienate a half of the audience. As they talk to each other, they learn a great deal of one another. They challenge each other, they're entertained by each other and you can see that they are gradually forming an affection for one another.
"Southside With You" is a quietly romantic film. It has much more in common with Richard Linklater's "Before" trilogy then, say, "The Notebook." Its not a movie that piles on angst of "will they, will they not" fall in love. Because we obviously know their future. Instead, the movie takes its audience seriously and reflects on the emotions, the nerves and the fundamentals of a first date. Its a more a comment on that than anything else. You may or may not be a fan of the Obama Administration, but that's okay. You don't have to love our soon-to-be former President in order to enjoy this movie. Its a movie about how two people come together during their date, how there are doubts in the beginning which leads to a good feeling in the end.
One thing that may freak you out though, is just how good Parker Sawyers is as Barack Obama. He is such a mirror reflection of the man that's creepy how dead on Sawyers is in the role. How Obama carries himself, his mannerisms, his quick wit, is all perfectly reflected. Its a performance that goes beyond mere imitation, its a reflection of a real person entirely. Tika Sumpter's work is just as important, simply because Michelle Robinson is the lead here. The film opens with her, constantly telling everyone its not a date she's going on. Then when she's finally out with Obama, she almost regrets going, then that regret turns into something positive and we see how she eventually gives into the experience of the day. Its a hefty work load, but Sumpter makes everything look so effortless.
So please, don't shrug this off just because you weren't a fan of Barack Obama. There is a surprising amount you can take away from this. Anybody who has ever been on a first date, especially anybody who has ever been unsure about a first date and then it ends up being with the person you marry. There is a small sweetness to the movie, but this is definitely not a Hollywood romance, which I think is why this film hit me dead center. If you let it, it will do the same for you.
FINAL GRADE: B+