Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

First-date material


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Not many sitting presidents have a movie made about them while they're still in office. That's an honor that was bestowed upon Barack Obama in writer-director Richard Tanne's feature-length debut film "Southside with You" (Miramax/Lionsgate), now out on DVD.

The course of one day, the first date of Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers, who nails Obama's speech pattern) and Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter), unfurls before our eyes with awkward and romantic moments alike. While Michelle dresses for her date with "another smooth-talking brother," Barack talks to his supportive grandmother on the phone. They have vastly different ideas of how the day is supposed to go. Michelle is Barack's advisor at the law firm where he is a summer associate. Because they work together, she feels it's inappropriate to call it a date.

A smoker who drives a beat-up Datsun with a hole in the floor on the passenger side, Barack arrives late. Michelle remarks on that, and reminds him that he was late for his first day of work, too. Over the course of the day, which includes taking in an art exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center, a community meeting at the Altgeld Gardens housing project, and seeing the Spike Lee movie "Do the Right Thing," he wins her over. Clocking in at under 90 minutes, "Southside with You" has an undeniable "made-for-TV" feel. But Tanne gets first-rate performances from his lead actors.

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