Who would ever think of making a movie about Barack (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle Obama’s (Tika Sumpter) first date? Richard Tanne would, and he makes an impressive directorial debut with this inspirational biopic that portrays a very eventful day in the lives of the future president and the future first lady.
The story unfolds in Chicago in the summer of 1989 when Michelle was employed as an attorney and living at home with her parents (Vanessa Bell Calloway and Phillip Edwad Van Lear). Barack had just finished his first year at Harvard law school and had landed an internship as her assistant at her prestigious firm.
Apparently, he was immediately smitten with Michelle. However, she had to politely remind him of the the office’s strict rule against fraternizing among associates. Nevertheless, when she refused to consider a date with him, he sold her on the idea of attending a business meeting with him.
After Michelle grudgingly agrees, Barack arrives late, and is not even embarrassed about either his tardiness or the gaping hole in the floor of his jalopy. He has also added a picnic, a museum visit, and a movie to their itinerary.
Initially, Michelle balks, but consents only after reminding Barack that “This is not a date.” Nevertheless, he presses on with his own agenda, with the Art Institute of Chicago being their first destination. And while enjoying paintings by the legendary Ernie Barnes, he begins broaching personal subjects.
The two continue to get to know each other over sandwiches in the park, with their conversations touching on everything from family, faith, blackness, and the meaning of life. So, Michelle had a pretty good measure of who he was by the time they arrived at the South Side rec center where Barack had worked as a community organizer.
The icing on the cake proves is be an inspirational, even presidential speech that he delivers to the people in the rec center. Michelle finally gives in, undoubtedly helped along by one woman’s (Deanna Reed Foster) approval of her as “the first sister” she’s ever seen Barack with. Next the pair heads to the theater to see Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, and they conclude the evening with a little canoodling while sharing an ice cream cone.
Southside with You is a syrupy soap opera recommended for Obama admirers. However, the predictable love story telegraphs its punches and its plotline is public knowledge. Overall, this plausible account of the blossoming of love between Barack and Michelle is a pleasant version of their romantic beginnings.
Very Good (***). PG-13 for smoking, a violent image, brief profanity, and a drug reference. Running time: 84 minutes. Distributor: Miramax/Roadside Attractions.