Southside With You

Starring: Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter
Directed By: Richard Tanne

Plot: A film that chronicles the first date between Barack (Sawyers) and Michelle (Sumpter) Obama. Highly conversational, the film plays out like the Before Sunset franchise.

What Works: Parker Sawyers does a good job portraying Barack Obama. He does it very easily, which is a stark comparison to Sumpter’s portrayal of Michelle, which is so over enunciated. I’ve never heard so many T’s and D’s in my life. Does Michelle Obama enunciate this much? It’s distracting because it is so constant. The film is also shot beautifully, considering it is a walk-and-talk. It has some interesting topics on race and equality, but not strong enough to stand up and pound those ideas into the ground.

What Doesn’t Work: The walk and talk movies just don’t work for me. I don’t like the entire Before Sunset franchise, even though so many others seem to. This film is above 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, so for full disclosure, I am in the minority, but this film just seemed problematic to me. I didn’t like Sumpter’s performance, and the lack of an actual plot bored me. It’s not even a 90 minute movie, and I was bored within the first 30. The most interesting scene was when they walked into a community meeting, and other characters offered other perspectives. I was finally engaged, and then we had more walking and talking. I can’t just give applause because this is the first cinematic Obama effort.

Final Word: Because of the occasional change of scenery and the strong performance from Sawyers, this film (for me) rises above the Before franchise. However, I was still bored most of the time, which is even more disheartening considering the short runtime. If you’re looking for insight into the Obamas, this film offers a sliver of perspective. But really, this is a film about two people on a first date, and spending most of it talking… like a real date. It’s just not that interesting.

Final Grade: C

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