By Jim Tortolano
Most famous people have to die or retire to be the subject of a film biography. Barack Obama, was usual, creates a new precedent as the focus – along with wife Michelle – of an excellent new film, “Southside With You.” It’s not exactly a biopic in the traditional sense, since it covers only one day in their life, but it is stuffed full of insight nonetheless.
The invisible star of this film about the first date of the future president and First Lady is a literate and engaging script by Richard Tanne, who also directs. But what really jumps off the screen is the dead-on depiction of Barack by Parker Sawyers. In addition to an uncanny resemblance, there is a letter-perfect rendition of the phrasing, pauses and rise and falls of that familiar voice.
Tika Sumpter, similarly, is a fine Michelle, at first reluctant to date a co-worker – this film takes place in 1989 Chicago where they are both at a private law firm – but slowly drawn to this rather unique individual.
This brief film – just 84 minutes – is not a hagiography, although some who are reflexively opposed to President Obama might feel that way. While it is clearly an affectionate portrayal, “Southside” nevertheless shows some warts, including references to Barack’s high school marijuana haze and his festering resentment for his absent father.
Intelligent, articulate and nicely-nuanced, “Southside With You” is everything that most of the dumb blockbusters of 2016 are not. It’s good to see that movies like this are still being made, and sad to think that they’re still quite rare.
“Southside With You” is rated PG-13 for smoking, drug references and a few adult words.
Categories: Arts & Leisure