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This is one of the worst films I've ever seen. And it's not that it's about the Obamas, or that it's political (it's not), or even that it is almost unbelievable (in spite of the fact that everything really did happen at some point). It's that the producer-writer-director is so obviously infatuated with the Obamas that he ended up making a movie which comes off as one big, fat, sloppy kiss. The movie spans one afternoon and evening. There's no conflict, there's no character development, there's no new information. The actors are well cast, and they do the best they can with what they're given. That may make for a sweet photo montage, but it doesn't tell a story (which has already been told many times anyway). Even if every incident depicted happened in the space of one day (which they almost certainly did not), no one would believe it. If there is one cliché that was missed, there was no place left to put it. If there was room for one more tracking shot, the audience would fall asleep. In short, if you are head-over-heels in love with the Obamas, you may love this outing. Otherwise....
The benefit of making a biographical film about a long deceased
statesman or woman is we can lionize them at will without having the
propensity of sounding political. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Wilson
(1944), John Adams (2008) all concerned themselves with figures that
were long-gone and if controversy was to be had it was a low murmur at
best. On the opposite side of the spectrum there are the maladroit
political screeds. Your Iron Lady's (2011) and Primary Color's (1998);
movies which are to varying degrees satirical admonishments and ad
Southside with You covers a third category which is exceedingly rare, especially in today's culture of "kill your Gods". The film takes place over a day in the life of a young Michelle Robinson (Sumpter) and a young Barack Obama (Sawyers) as they go on a first date. During their courtship they take in a community organizing event, an art exhibit, multiple walks through the park and a movie. While doing so they get to know about each other and plow through their insecurities, their family lives and their plans for the future. That's basically it; our first film fictionalization of President Barack Obama is not some big epic nor a under-the-radar satire. No, this film is basically Before Sunrise (1995) without the sexual tension.
As our two leads, Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers are dead-ringers to the current occupants of the White House; down to their mannerisms, speech patterns and general way about them. As actors they are both reliably charming, have great chemistry together and evoke sympathy with very little coaxing. I genuinely felt compassion for these characters and the layers of social and emotional pressures they face.
Which is just as well because the script is about as heavy-handed and clunky as a Sunday school sermon. Within the first five minutes we know that we're going to spend our time with interesting people because their resumes were pretty much announced like they were on a dating show. Here's Michelle Robinson who matriculated from Princeton before getting her Junior Doctorates from Harvard Law. Her brother is a basketball coach at Brown and her dad has MS. Young Barack is a young summer associate who is going to Harvard Law and was born in Hawaii. He briefly worked as a Gardens community organizer while going to Columbia and for a young man he's surprisingly well traveled. He likes pie and hates ice cream.
As they get to know each other, the poorly concealed wounds of an absent father and a bi-racial upbringing keep the drama alive though for the most part writer/director Richard Tanne goes through great pains to make Obama look like the patron Saint of Chicago's southside. Granted even terrible people put their best foot forward when on a first date but man this guy lays it on thick. Every time Michelle meets one of his friends they keep nudging her and saying "he's a keeper". She replies "We're not dating," because of course she would. Cue the heartfelt speech about working together and not judging people before you get to know them; and kiss in three, two...
Now apparently a lot of the events of the film are true to life. Barack Obama was a summer associate at the law firm Michelle was working at and Michelle did initially refuse to go on a date with him. They did in-fact see Do the Right Thing (1989) and did in-fact go get Baskin Robbins afterward. Yet if these two characters were purely fictional, chances are you'd be bored out of your mind watching this movie. If ever there was an example of a true story that isn't interesting enough to be a movie, this is clearly it; especially given the "will they or won't they" tension that actually makes movies like these bearable is absent.
Southside with You is an innocent, easily digestible and easily forgettable puff piece on the level of a Teen Beat article asking Sasha who her favorite One Direction member is. That in itself is not the worst thing in the world, but given that the real life Obama is still a lightning rod of controversy, this film is quite the letdown by comparison.
This film tells the story of how Barack Obama meets Michelle, his
future wife, in the Southside of Chicago. They work in the same law
firm, meet up for a day of activities, and get to know each other
"Southside with You" reminds me of the "Before Sunrise" series, where two people walk around and talk all the time. People say this kind of film is romantic, but I find them very boring. "Southside with You" is very similar, but with one slight difference - it showcases how brilliant and clever Obama is, and hence he wins Michelle's tough and seemingly impenetrable heart. I cannot say I enjoyed the film so much, though I am impressed by how eloquent Obama is portrayed to be. Having this film made around this time makes people wonder whether there is any political reason for it. To sum up, I do not think this is my type of film.
Southside with You tries to tell the romantic story of Obama and
Michelle's relationship by giving us a deep look into the lives of the
future best family in the U.S, but sadly it falters a bit as it tries
to make the romance interesting with thought provoking debates about
the world and there clashing ideals. The film just lacks a lot of focus
on what it wants to really be and how much of the story it wants to
The acting is actually the best part of the film as Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers really try there best to the weak script compelling and interesting to see. There chemistry is quite incompatible and makes for a fun and engaging experience to see portrayed on the screen.
But good chemistry can't save a pretty meh script and pretty average directing done by Richard Tanne. The film just can't engage you enough and instead feels dull and also really boring to watch as well.
Overall Southside by You tries to be interesting but misses the mark
Once you get over the weirdness of the fact that you're watching a movie about Barack and Michelle Obama's first date, this is an utterly charming and smart movie. I'm not sure how much of this is based on fact and how much of it is imagined (I assume most of the biographical details were fished out of Obama's autobiographies), but it imagines the two in their late 20s in Chicago in 1989. She doesn't want it to be a date, but he clearly does, so they do the dance. The film characterizes both Barack and Michelle beautifully - it's easy to momentarily forget who these people will become and just see them as complex human beings. The film is also one of the best about race in America - it doesn't shy away from those issues at all, and has a lot of intelligent discourse on the subject (it's quite disappointing that the writer/director is a white man, but thankfully he is a smart, sensitive white man). Saving the best for last, man, do the two leads, Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers, knock it out of the park. Sawyers nails not only the way the future President speaks, but also his fantastic charisma. Sumpter may not quite come off as a perfect copy of Michelle, but she builds the character beautifully. Definitely one of the year's best films.
Although the 2 films were made by completely different people and
studios, comparisons between 'Barry (2016)' and 'Southside With You
(2016)' is inevitable.
Both movies are about Barack Obama, the former 'Barry (2016)' was about his younger days in college as a angsty young man (before Michelle came into the picture) in search for an identity, a film which I very much enjoyed. In fact I put it on my 'best of 2016' movies list.
So this movie should be right up my alley right? well I can't say that it was, 'Southside With You' has a far less interesting premise, it's basically a fluffy rom com turned political drama halfway through. And it's all in all not very interesting.
And I have to say I found Michelle Obama as a character in the film rather annoying and self-centered, Barack was acceptable but he failed in comparison to the actor who played him in 'Barry'.
Perhaps if you are really intrigued by Michelle and Barack as a couple it will be interesting for me, but I can't say I am personally so it's a miss for me.
A small film with a small success. It was entirely shot in the two
weeks of time. Directed by a first timer, it tells the true story of
Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson's first date back in the 1989 during
working for a big law firm in Chicago. Like how Michelle denied it is a
date as co-workers should not engage in a close relationship. While
Obama is trying to win her heart, the film reveals their day, what they
talk and do and how it all ends.
This is not a biographical film I was expecting. I mean I was looking forward to the film, but not this kind of simple story. This looks like another version of 'Before Sunrise', and I won't be surprised if they make a sequel in a similar fashion, maybe a trilogy. So this is a one day event when they were young and passionate about their work, somewhat they both liked each other, though they knew their limits. The writer-come-director confirms all the events from his film really occurred, but not all of them in just one date.
The actors were good, especially I liked Parker Sawyers as Barack Obama. For me, this is not a great film, but decently made one. Obama fans might like it, though you could try it if you like date film in a realistic manner. It's Obama's early life, so there's nothing about his present politics or the president post, except talking about their future plans. But most of the film about between them and their life, like how they grew how, what they love and loved, those kind of stuffs. So I hope you watch it with a low expectation.
I saw this film yesterday and I was pleasantly surprised. I thought the
actors captured the essence of the Obamas wonderfully; what they may
have lacked in appearance they certainly had in spirit.
The movie that kept popping into my head while watching Southside With You was My Dinner with Andre. Now some may find that a stretch but really it's not. It's been a long time since I've watch two adults on screen having a conversation for ninety minutes. I found the conversation interesting and compelling. (The other movie that comes to mind is Mind Walk)
A lot of folks will skip this film because it lacks over-the-top drama, action and violence. This movie is for a mature audience but for different reasons. It is insightful and intelligent and you'll be glad that you saw if indeed you do.
The production and photography are very good, so you can see that a
considerable amount of money was spent in this film.
It has good moments, good acting also, but at the end it becomes clear that as a propaganda movie for Michelle Obama to run as the democrat candidate in 2020. Everyone knows how popular Mrs. Obama is, and the movie was made to show other sides of her in a wave of appeals to emotion and tries very hard to make her larger than life, the perfection goal to all human beings.
And that's the moment when it lost me. The movie becomes something you would see in a TV commercial that has that voice at the end saying "Michelle Obama approves this ad".
Well, that's it, didn't like it. Too fake and "robotic" to my taste.
Long time since I've seen anything like that.
It's hard to believe that anyone would even try to film two (adult) actors actually talking with each other...not just for a few moments, but...virtually the whole movie [97%]. Another hour would NOT have been enough for me.
I wonder what a multiple part sequel series would look like. Same writer, but different directors. Maybe to actually follow Michelle and Barack various moments in time / day in the life etc.
We now know how B.O. got her attention, but...what was the next critical relationship pivot...?
Great concept and...brilliant "...capturing a moment in time" writing.
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