Directed by Richard Tanne
Written by Richard Tanne
Starring: Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter
“Southside with You” dramatizes the first date of Barack and Michelle Obama. Dramatization is the perfect categorization for this movie, as I am sure that Richard Tanne took some dramatic license in telling the story. Not that dramatic license is an issue, in fact, it is something that should be expected when watching a movie based on a true story, but the movie felt too self-aggrandizing with a focus foreshadowing and sociopolitical discussion that seems far better suited for 2016 than the late 1980s. Not that I am an expert on late ‘80s America.
The highlight of “Southside with You” is the performances of its two leads, Parker Sawers and Tika Sumpter, as Barack and Michelle Obama respectively. Sawers and Sumpter skillfully embody the Obama’s in both appearance and mannerisms. They are doppelgängers for the Obama’s, even adapting the characteristics of their speech patterns. These performances are good, but not quite Oscar-caliber. An Oscar-caliber transcends merely being a good performance and becomes a phenomenal performance.
While I was coming home from seeing “Southside with You” I heard David Edelstein giving his review of the movie on NPR, in his review, he stated that the final scene in “Southside with You” was a wasted opportunity. I agree with his rationale that this scene could have been a debate between Barack Obama and the senior partner at the law firm he was working at this time. A debate about the non-violent approach to racial politics advocated by Dr. King and Obama and the more aggressive variant promoted by Malcolm X and Spike Lee in his movie “Do the Right Thing,” as they had all just seen Lee’s movie. Then again, “Southside With You” is a film that thinks has a far more profound sociopolitical message that it does.
Overall, “Southside with You” was a well-made and well-acted film, that provides fascinating insights into the people that are Barack and Michelle Obama.