Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Monday, April 15, 2024
<p>This image released by Roadside Attractions shows Tika Sumpter, left, and Parker Sawyers in a scene from "Southside With You." (Matt Dinerstein/Miramax and Roadside Attractions via AP)</p>

This image released by Roadside Attractions shows Tika Sumpter, left, and Parker Sawyers in a scene from "Southside With You." (Matt Dinerstein/Miramax and Roadside Attractions via AP)

With the presidential election drawing near, “Southside With You” manages to escape the sea of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump yard signs in order to say, “Hey, remember how likable our current president is?”

Premiering last weekend, the romantic dramedy recounts the fateful tale of a young Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) attempting to court his future wife and first lady Michelle (Tika Sumpter). The film takes us back to 1989, when Barack and Michelle were lawyers working at the same firm.

Over the course of a single day, Barack must persuade stubborn and ambitious Michelle he’s more than just a rough-around-the-edges player. His beat-up car, cigarette smoking and daddy issues don’t really help his cause, but he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve, which involve dragging Michelle to a community meeting where he gives an endearing and powerful speech — foreshadowing, much? Add in an art exhibit, a movie and some ice cream, and he might just get Michelle to finally admit it’s a date.

It sounds cutesy, and it is. But amidst all the fluff, there’s still plenty of conflict — and maybe too much of it. The start of the couple’s relationship is shaky, but “Southside With You” doesn’t stop there. Both characters are angry: Barack at his late, negligent father and Michelle at the sacrifices she must make to succeed. While this does add depth to the characters, their personal arcs get rushed for the sake of the romantic plot, and it all comes off as more messy than necessary.

What does make for a nice addition to all the romance are the conversations on culture and racial issues. Black music, arts and film are spoken about at length. Michelle even proclaims how difficult the workplace is given she’s not only a woman, but also black. The conversation isn’t anything revolutionary, but it is refreshing, even if first-time director and writer Richard Tanne himself is white.

The film overall is well-crafted, but the performances are what really shine. In his first leading role, Sawyers gives a very believable — and thankfully not over-the-top — impression of our president, balancing just the right amount of charm and gangliness to make anyone swoon. Sumter also pulls off a nice portrayal of Michelle Obama, nailing her well-known mannerisms and clear way of speaking. Together, the duo create a magnetic chemistry.

The story itself is charming, but at the end, it begs one question: Why was this movie even made? A lot happens, but it never really proves its purpose. There’s romance, but there’s also long-winded conversations and various allusions and random scenes. Not to mention, the film could’ve been about anyone; focusing on the most powerful couple in the U.S. makes it seem like the only goal is for the audience to admire the two people on screen.

If that is the case, I guess “Southside With You” works.

This image released by Roadside Attractions shows Tika Sumpter, left, and Parker Sawyers in a scene from "Southside With You." (Matt Dinerstein/Miramax and Roadside Attractions via AP)

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox
Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.