Southside with You (PG-13)

Written and Directed by Richard Tanne, and produced by John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Company, Southside with You, starring Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter as Barack and Michelle Obama tells the story of the POTUS and FLOTUS’s first date.  This is Tanne’s first feature length film.

What is there to say about a movie that is set around a first date? I could not have imagined, but I will say this: this is one of the best films I have seen all year.  (And for the record, I’m not saying this because I’m black, just to be perfectly clear.)  No matter how you may feel about our President and his wife, this movie is simply beautiful.  It is nothing short of masterful to create a movie that keeps the audience interested and invested until the inevitable end using only two main characters as we go on a date for a day with them; especially when everyone knows how it all works out.  This is a beautiful love story reduced to one day and every bit of it is a reflection of the grace and charm that this couple have exhibited in front of us for the past 8 years.  This is not an easy feat to accomplish: to capture the essence of two people, not only in the characters, but in the intricate filmmaking.

In a society where people are easily bored and distracted – everyone wants action and 3D and 4DX and CGI, bigger, better, newer and faster – this film uses the tension between these two characters as the action and the suspense through dialogue; the old fashioned art of two people getting together and talking to one another. Nothing is exploding, no one’s life in jeopardy, there are no catastrophic cliffhangers.  Just good old fashioned conversation like people used to have in what now seems like the olden days.

If this film is a harbinger of the quality of filmmaking we can look forward to from Mr. Legend’s production company, I say “Bravo John Legend! Bravo!!!” Finally, perhaps we will see some stories about black people with substance, where no one is running around in drag and no one is smoking weed, or rapping, and no one is losing their life to senseless street violence – something different, something refreshing.  Not that there is anything wrong with those films, but damn it, they have been done to death, and there are so many, many, many more stories to be told about the black American experience.

This film manages to capture a romantic, serendipitous moment in history, and it is interesting because the audience gets to see the things these two people saw in one another from the beginning that hold them together to this day. It is part of our American history really, because if these two were not together, who knows if Barack would have ever made it to the White House.  This film reminds us how brilliant, strong, loving and evenly yoked this couple is.  This film is a love letter to the Obamas, about the Obamas, on film.

Parker Sawyers gives a spot on portrayal of Barack Obama, without seeming like a caricature. He captures the President’s posture, gestures and speech pattern flawlessly and you could imagine that this is what a young Barack sounded like, looked like and how he acted.  Tika Sumpter as Michelle Obama was incredible.  One small problem with the film was there were a couple of times where she over-acted just the tiniest, teensiest bit and crossed into the Michelle Obama impersonator territory, but she reeled it back in gracefully, just as one would imagine Michelle might do, and carried on.

Southside with You earned 9.75 out of 10 bloops. I can forgive the bit of overacting Tika did but I cannot forget it.  This is a surprisingly beautiful and thoughtful movie that relies on writing and bare acting to carry it, and succeeds.  It is a perfect date movie, but be careful…  if you have a mate who is happy with you, you will score points – but if you’re a sorry mate, it may make your partner reevaluate you and your entire situation.  Barack is very smooth.  But you already know that.  At any rate, you will not be bored in the least bit.  I believe you will enjoy it.

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1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

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