DVD Review – Southside With You

Obama has now left the office of President and has been replaced with a man who powders his nose with Cheetos. Trump is also a man who clearly paid his wife Melania to have the “pleasure” of their first date. If the inauguration of Trump is anything to go by, Trump and Melania have no chemistry at all. Obama was a man who actually had to win over his future wife Michelle to even make their date into a “date”.

Southside With You is one of two films on Obama which came out recently. Southside With You deals with the Obama’s first date and the other is Netflix’s Barry which deals with a year of college he had in 1981. It’s a smart move to do the early years instead of something on Obama’s rise of power (even though the excellent Game Change covers that somewhat) because the behind the scenes of his administration will be coming out in the years to come.

The film itself owes a lot to Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy, it’s mostly just Barack and Michelle walking around Chicago during the day talking and getting to know one another. They  see an “Afrocentric exhibition”, walk in the park, Barack does a speech at community organization meeting (OF COURSE!), they see Do The Right Thing and get some Ice Cream and of course share a kiss. The speech of course is the showstopper and there is a joke about how Barack is good at doing speeches. It’s also illustrates well the origins of Obama’s political ambitions and Michelle starting to realise this guy isn’t just some smooth talking guy who wants to go to bed with her.

The two performances have the right mix of impersonation and nuance so you get a credible portrayal of Barack and Michelle. Parker Sawyers’ obviously looks like Barack but also gets his voice stylings down and actually played down his skills in the art of impersonation to get to the heart of the young Barack. Tika Sumpter’s portrayal and also the script is an insightful look into the younger Michelle who was an associate at a big Chicago law firm, she was Barack’s mentor. The spotlight was always on Barack but Michelle is an equally captivating person as well, no wonder she is being tipped as a possible presidential candidate in her own right.

Southside With You is maybe slight and falls into TV movie territory at times. The end with Barack reading his favourite book Song Of Solomon is cheesy beyond belief. However with a running time of 73 minutes (minus credits) its finishes quickly enough to never out stay it’s welcome. Barack and Michelle have responded to the film and find it amusing if somewhat baffling that film exists in the first place. The disc is fairly barebones but includes some short interviews with cast and crew.

★★★½

Ian Schultz

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