By Bonnie DeShong
The year is 1989. The place is the South Side of Chicago. A young law firm associate named Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) asks his supervisor/mentor at the law office he is working at for the summer, attorney Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) to attend a rally with him. What he fails to tell her is that he has planned a whole day and evening of events.
This film is based on the real first date of now President Obama and first lady Michelle. We meet the professional Michelle who is working her way up in a law firm at a time when women, especially women of color, had to prove themselves to be as good if not better than the average man in the business world. We can tell she is attracted to this young law associate, but feels that it would be unprofessional to allow herself to act on this attraction. We also meet the smart but messy, cigarette smoking, community activist law associate Barack Obama, who is attracted to his mentor and strategically plans a way to take her on a date by stretching the truth.
I was smiling from the beginning of this film to the end. Tika Sumpter plays Michelle with many layers. We see the love she has for her parents, their work ethics, and family. She is proud of them and she has worked hard to live up to, not only their expectations, but also her own. Patrick Sawyers is amazing as Barack. The easy going good guy with a little bit of an edge, the guy who sees what he wants and goes after it, and the venerable guy who still has to forgive and accept before he can move on. Both Tika and Patrick play Michelle and Barack with ease. They don’t try to be Michelle and Barack…they are them. Playing the two most visible people in the world told can be rather overwhelming. Patrick and Tika didn’t over play it. I believed them because they were so natural in their portrayals.
We are taken on a full day with the couple. Michelle thinking she is being picked up to go to a rally when actually Barack is picking her up to go on a date. After a while I was caught up into the day. I felt the lightness and laughter of the situation of the date and had hoped that they will get together although I already know they did. I sat in awe as he spoke to the crowd at the rally and when she smiled I knew Michelle had dropped her guard. I was happy for them as they watched the movie “Do the Right Thing” and laughed at her being flustered when running into her boss at the law firm. I was sad when she felt off center and pushed Barack away and almost shouted with joy when he knew just what to do. I sighed like a love sick teenager when they shared their first kiss and loved the way they ended the evening.
Leaving the theater I realized that I saw a good, old fashioned love story. A time when people went on dates, shared a first kiss and didn’t expect anything more than to plan for the next time they could be together. I loved this film. It is simple, a little basic, and very refreshing.
SPEND THE MONEY and see SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU in the Theaters.