September 21, 2016 by David Dehlendorf
Review of Movie “Southside with You”
By San Juan Island resident Molly Hogan, September 21, 2016
Recently, I saw “Southside with You”, a film that chronicles the first date of a young Harvard Law student named Barack Obama with a lovely young woman, Michelle Robinson, his adviser at the Chicago law firm where he was a summer intern. Michelle insisted that it was not a date, saying it would be tacky for her to date a summer intern. It is obvious he really wanted it to be a date. He had invited her to attend a community action meeting with him at a Southside housing project. His plan was for them to spend some time together before the meeting, getting to know each other. Where Michelle was resistant, he was playfully insistent.
Though this is a fictionalized account of that summer day in 1989, writer/director Richard Tanne based his script entirely on information that has been made public about that first date. They really did go to the Art Institute of Chicago to view the work of Ernie Banks and then had a picnic lunch out in the courtyard. Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” had just opened and they went to see it together. After the movie, he took for an ice cream at Baskins & Robbins, where they first kissed.
Tika Sumpter plays Michelle Robinson as a bright, hard working woman living at home with her parents. Corporate law is not quite what her dreams were while at Harvard Law, but she also wants to be able to pay her student loans and not be a burden to her parents. We can see her strength and imagine that she is not easily impressed. She doesn’t intend to fall for “another smooth talkin’ brother”.
As Barack Obama, Parker Sawyers captures the confidence and charisma we know the young man possessed. His language, dialect and mannerisms are spot on. Sawyers bears a remarkable resemblance to the real man he was portraying and had already been perfecting his version of the POTUS. The director asked him to tone down his impersonation of President Obama and just be the young man trying to impress a pretty young woman. It worked.
I am a big fan of the Obamas and loved this opportunity to see how they met and what they did on their first date. This film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and will be available on DVD eventually.