After having our male movie-watching partners roll their eyes at us, one of my galpals from way, way back in the day and I headed out to see Southside with You. Armed with diet soda and a small buttery popcorn, we dashed into a mostly empty matinee showing of the 90-minute film.
First of all, it's beuatifully shot. I've been to Chicago many a time and have more than a passing fondness for it (except in winter) but this film made me want to go back and spend some time.
Parker Sawyer is uncanny as a young, slightly cocky, coming-into-his-own Barack Obama. He has the cadence, the mannerisms and je-ne-sais-quoi that we've come to associate with our 44th president. Tika Sumpter plays Michelle as attracted-in-spite-of-herself, struggling with the reality of what corporate/legal life is like vs. what she wants to make of herself. A few minutes in, you forget you are watching actors play a role and instead feel you are getting a peek into something personal and special.
Without giving away the plot (though we know how it works out, don't we?); their first date was epic. It lasted eight-plus hours and every bit of it was compelling. The seeds of who they are today, Barack's political roots as well as Michelle's drive to serve are all foreshadowed on this date. Watching their day unfold, a few things smacked me in the face.
1. I don't know if I would've recognized the potential in a young Barack that she did. Yes it was obvious he was smart and cute and gifted. But the me that I was back then would've been hung up on the fact that he was dead broke, he smoked, his car was crappy, and he liked himself a lot. That gave me some pause. Did I miss a Barackian unpolished jewel because I thought his whip was ratchet and the dinner menu wasn't up to par? Maybe so, maybe be not... but then again...
2. I don't know (and I'm certainly not going back to ask) if I've ever been pursued with the single-minded intensity that Barack had. He was tenacious. He was not giving up until she gave him a shot. This was (and still is) a dude that keeps his eyes on the prize. That kind of unflagging pursuit would be hard to resist in a cute, attending-Harvard-Law and about something more that foolery type of guy.
3. Looking at the two of them know, it's easy to forget that they literally educated and worked their way from the very bottom to the very top. Now we see the glamour and the polish and the panache but that night they were just two like-minded attractive people with dreams sharing an ice cream cone. It explains why they sometimes seem to be keeping it real and truly enjoying that that is enjoyable about being the first fam. It explains why they sometimes look at each other like they are sharing a private joke.
4. We all need to date better. I've had good dates and bad dates. Crap dates and sizzling dates. But transformative? Hmmm. Everybody needs to step their date game up. Damn if the Obamas didn't knock it out the park on date one. #DateBetterAmerica I'm just saying.
Anyway, I loved the movie. The soundtrack rocked. For those of us that came up in the 80s, it was nostalgic in both good and bad ways. The discussion about Do the Right Thing was hauntingly familiar.
The movie was fun and romantic without being sappy. It gave you a glimpse at how our extraordinary First Couple came to be the people and the couple that they are now. You find yourself wanting to stay on the journey to see what happens next even though we know.
You don't even have to be fans of the Obamas to appreciate this film. It's universal. It's chemistry. It's a how meeting someone great turns into potential lifemates. Just trust me on this one, go see it. Enjoy it. You too fellas. We could all watch and learn.