Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter shine as Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson on their first date in Southside With You, an ultra-sweet and enjoyable account of the time the future president and first lady got together for a day and eventually went to see Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing.
Writer-director Richard Tanne, above all things, does a great job of capturing the spirit of the late ’80s with his period piece, placing the two icons in a very believable, low-key environment. Sawyers (a dead ringer for Obama) and Sumpter capture the spirit of the couple without exaggerating any of their characteristics.
It’s a blast watching a young Robinson, who was actually Obama’s mentor and adviser at a law firm, keeping a persistent Obama’s romantic pursuits in check. It’s also funny to see the future president lighting up many cigarettes during the course of the movie, including one in the very first scene. Tanne’s approach to the subject matter is beautifully understated, allowing his performers to show us a couple of real people getting to know each other slowly.
We all know how things turn out for the couple, but it’s fun to see them starting in Obama’s crappy, smoke-stained jalopy with an unimpressed Michelle in the passenger’s seat. Spoiler alert: By the end of the movie, he’s managed to impress her enough that there just might be a second date.
Southside With You is now playing at the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342), the Century Theatres at The River (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940) and Mary Pickford Is D’Place (36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City; 760-328-7100).