Boy, Obama’s term is really going out on some unique terms, isn’t it? Hell, his term in general is pretty unique, having a pretty prominent appearance on social media, for example. From taking pictures with Olympian memes, to being called out to fire a police officer for pulling over a half (or fully) crazed celebrity, to now having a romance film about how the president met his wife. That’s also pretty unique. The last movie that featured a president was W. (2008) and that was, from what I hear, a very political movie… ha, makes sense. But now we have a president headlining, but it’s a romance. I’m half expecting political undertones, but if it is a straight-forward romance, I’m also expecting it to be average and more suited to the Hallmark channel than a big screen feature.
Let’s take a look at the leading man and lady. Parker Sawyers has had a few small roles in some noteworthy stuff in the past, including ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012), KICK-ASS 2 (2013), and JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT (2014), and will make an appearance in this year’s upcoming SNOWDEN. But I’m thinking this is his first leading role. And as our current president, no less. No pressure, dude. Tika Sumpter is a bit more recognizable. She’s been in both Ride Along films, and is one of the stars of the TV show THE HAVES AND HAVE NOTS on the OWN channel. She’s also had a couple of bit roles in movies like GET ON UP (2014) and THINK LIKE A MAN (2012).
Writing and directing is Richard Tanne, a newcomer. This will be his feature-length debut in both areas, so congrats on the big break. Here’s something fun to share with your friends: the composer for this movie is Stephen James Taylor. Don’t know who he is? Let’s try this for all you 90’s kids out there. He’s done the music for such cartoon classics as G.I. JOE, BONKERS, TIMON & PUMBAA, and even the ever popular TINY TOON ADVENTURES: HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION.
I’m not going in with any real expectations to be honest. And… yeah, that’s all I can say really. I suppose the only thing I am looking forward to is a possible reaction from the Obamas themselves, whether or not the movie is accurate or just a sappy romance tale that just happens to feature the now-President and his wife. But here we go. This is my honest opinion of SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU.
Set in 1989. Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) is a promising young lawyer who’s made great strides in her firm. Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) is new to the firm, but has already has had Michelle assigned as his adviser. Immediately taken by Michelle’s beauty, the story opens on him picking her up to take her to their firm’s meeting. Michelle’s family thinks it’s a date, despite her vehemently saying it’s not. Well, Barack is determined otherwise. He picks her up, but reveals that the firm’s meeting isn’t until much later. In the mean time, he wants to take Michelle on a date, despite her objections. But his smooth charm wins her over, adding that even though they’re together, they are not on a date until she declares it a date. So begins an insightful and romantic evening of the two getting to know each other, their strengths, their lives, their ambitions, everything in Barack’s power to win over Michelle.
I probably won’t say it’s the best romance movie I’ve seen this year, but I do like it and I think it’s better than most people might give it credit for.
First off, before getting into the review itself, Tanne has expressed that most everything that occurred in the movie really did happen on the Obamas’ first date (minus the community get-together; that happened after their date). He never spoke to them beforehand.
Nor did he hide the fact that all of this was simply based on the interviews that he himself read and took creative liberties into the physical dialog.
So it’s good to know that he’s honest about the final product. Let’s just hope that if the Obamas watch it, he did them enough justice to not piss them off.
Anyway, review! This is actually a pretty charming and enjoyable film.
If there’s anyone in this movie that deserves some serious consideration for break-out performance, it’d be Sumpter. Oh my god, she is an absolute scene-stealer. I love how she tries to be all professional with Barack, but no matter how many times she calls him out for being smooth and a charmer, she’s always smiling while saying it. Yeah, he’s smooth and he’s a charmer. Look at you listen to everything he says, hanging on to every word, you can’t convince me that you didn’t fall for it, girl. Scene after scene, you see her growing warmer toward him, closer to him even if he says something that upsets her.
While Sumpter does get the better role, I do have to give Sawyers credit where it’s due. When he’s at that community gathering, he owns that scene. He has a powerful presence, an inspiring voice, full of warmth and determination. I can’t say I’m a political man, I don’t follow Obama on the news or watch any national addresses or debates, or whatever, but if the real man is anything like this, I should have been paying more attention. And when he’s talking about his father, I can really appreciate how his character is handled, so props to Tanne as well. I feel like this could have been too easy to exaggerate his feelings and bring about a powerhouse emotional scream, but I like that it never happened. Instead, they’re quiet moments. You see Barack reflecting on his own feelings, struggling with them as Michelle gives him new perspective and ideas regarding that part of his life. In these moments, it’s him listening to her and that’s such a nice touch to the story and the development of their relationship.
I suppose if I had any real nitpicks, I think the movie does get slightly boring when the two characters talk shop. The politics of their work, it gets a little too… smart for my taste. The rest of the movie is so simple in how these two people interact with each other on the most basic levels, and it just comes to a halt when talk about cases that the audience isn’t familiar with take control of the scene. We get it, they’re smart. You don’t need to really show it off like that. But that’s just a nitpick, and a really big one at that.
There’s also some story elements that don’t seem to go anywhere. Like why does Michelle give Barack disapproving stares when she catches him smoking? She never brings it up to him. And in another scene, why does he care if she catches him smoking if he’s just going to light another cigarette literally two scenes later? That didn’t seem to add up to me.
Honestly, there’s not a whole lot to talk about regarding this one. It’s a very simple film, not too complex, but still sweet and adorable. If you’re a romantic or want a date movie with your significant other, this isn’t a bad choice. I doubt it’s one for the ages, but it’s still worth your time.
My honest rating for SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU: 4/5
Upcoming hopeful reviews:
- THE HOLLARS
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDm-hMnvB44
- A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS
- trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2Jd6COX9Q0