Hello Everyone, Janet W. here…
Summer of 1989, Southside of Chicago days were hot. Two young lawyers meet whom decades later; would become President and First Lady of the United States. Barack, a summer associate, and Michelle, a second year associate, at Sidley Austin begin their life together the same way all relationships begin…with a first date, Southside with You.
Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) struggles to maintain professionalism as the suave Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) tempts and taunts her to consider his suit. Sumpter and Sawyers, from what I’ve seen of the Obamas, were good casting choices having developed similar mannerisms and demeanor. However, Southside with You doesn’t always paint the flattering portrait of Michelle and Barack. Michelle restrained by her perceived expectations of the job comes across as frigid. Barack is the charismatic, womanizing smoke-aholic of our tale.
I mean what type of person ends a relationship, because of the color of their partner’s skin? (This will make more sense when you watch the film, if you do) I enjoyed Sumpter as the gutsy feminist Dolores in Sparkle, but I have not had much exposure to her acting ability. Even less was my exposure of Sawyers’ skills. Richard Tanne, the director, was certainly not afraid to use extreme close-ups. I didn’t enjoy being that up close and personal. This is Tanne’s first feature length directing credit though. He did make you feel like you were in the room.
A weird cinematic choice was “Miss You Much” by Janet Jackson, which was far too loud, blaring even. It was #2 in 1989, so maybe it was for realism sake. However, it was an odd choice lyrically speaking to lead up to a first date. The rest of the soundtrack and score was evenly balanced, but not that song. I’m a Janet Jackson fan, but come on, too, obvious. One moment that was somewhat inspirational was a speech given by Barack. The Ernie Barnes paintings were interesting, too. Overall, I found Southside with You to be quite boring.
One day, seemingly endless, that nearly lulled me to sleep. The pace was too slow and the endless debate “date or not” got old 20 mins in. Perhaps if the Obamas had co-wrote or just collaborated on the screenplay, something better could have been made. A little intellectual banter, a splash of social consciousness, and some culture, but in the end it just wasn’t enough to keep the experience lively.
NOT ENOUGH TO KEEP YOU IN YOUR SEAT
Janet L. White
Your friendly straightforward neighborhood critic