Southside with You Movie Review
Love him or hate him, President Barack Obama has accomplished a lot of things while in office. So it’s only fitting that someone made a movie about… his first date with Michelle??? Yes, Southside with You is here and it’s everything you didn’t expect it to be: a heartfelt, entertaining and engaging drama featuring a terrific performance by Parker Sawyers.
I had the opportunity to interview writer/director Richard Tanne, who stated that when he set out to cast his movie, he wasn’t specifically looking for people who looked or sounded like the Obamas—but he wasn’t sure if his movie would have worked had he cast people who didn’t look like two of the most famous people on the planet.
I’m pretty damn sure I know, which is why Tanne should be thankful that he stumbled across Parker Sawyers, an Obama lookalike who is able to channel the President’s mannerisms extremely well. Not for a second do you question Sawyers as Obama, but thankfully he’s not just an imitator: he delivers one of the better performances of the year.
Tika Sumpter, who plays Michelle Robinson, also delivers a fine performance. She has good chemistry with her co-star. She didn’t blow me away the way Sawyers does, though; it was harder to picture her as the future Mrs. Obama, and no matter how good of an actress she is, this was a limiting factor for her.
At only 80 minutes long, Southside with You is a fast, efficient and often engrossing romantic drama that echoes Before Sunrise, though expectedly falls short of the greatness of that Richard Linklater film. The movie relies almost exclusively on the exchanges between Barack and Michelle—and of course Tanne’s script—and largely succeeds.
Tanne does have the tendency to over-manufacture dialogue at times. While the movie is well written, he occasionally forces his characters into deep ruminations about parental influence and other themes that feel a bit too on-the-nose for a first date. A scene that harkens to Obama’s history as a community organizer is well done, but again, a tad too political for a first date. Tanne could have avoided these obvious overtures without any negative consequence to the film.
Southside with You isn’t perfect, and it is no Before Sunrise, but it’s still a well written, well-acted and believable romantic drama that exceeds expectations. Next up for Tanne? A romantic drama about Donald Trump.
Southside with You arrives on Blu-ray on December 13, 2016.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.