Review: SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU

By Liz Lopez

Rating: B

A young, attractive and tall lawyer, Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter), is shown in the opening scenes primping as she normally does for a daytime outing to a community event with a gentleman. She insists to her parents that this is “not a date” when she is accompanying a summer associate at the law office, Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers). No matter how many times she repeats this to her parents and others she meets during the day; there definitely is a connection that is obvious to others. As we now know, that warm 1989 summer day in Chicago was the beginning of the rest of their lives before becoming President and First Lady of the United States.

This “one day” of a non-date is the basis for the fact-based American independent film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, Southside With You. Richard Tanne’s writing-directing 80-minute running time film debut had a modest budget and although it may not become a huge commercial hit like the action blockbusters, it has a great cast in the lead (Sumpter and Sawyers) that will appeal to fans of a film with strong independent characters and a romance that blossoms after long walks and conversation, despite any resistance on Michelle’s part.

There is no costume change in this film. Michelle wears a light orange blouse and ivory skirt, while Barack is wearing comfortable sports clothes. They drive around in an older vehicle that has a hole in the floor.  She has agreed to the community meeting at a Southside church where there will be a discussion about a plan for a community center. They actually spend long hours together, first to an art exhibit, followed by lunch in a park. She insists on paying her meal. When they finally get to the meeting, it is there where Michelle views how Barack speaks with the attendees as if effortlessly, and very eloquent. No doubt she is impressed, but keeps a distant demeanor. Later, they view the Spike Lee film, Do the Right Thing, before they really begin to wrap up the evening.

Sawyers (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) has a strong resemblance to Obama and when he speaks in the film as well. Sumpter matches Michelle’s height and look, especially with certain facial expressions.

Sumpter has been in such films as Think Like a Man, Ride Along and Get On Up, but I hope to see her in more roles such as this to display her full range of acting skills. She also serves as a producer in this film, alongside the Tanne, Robert Teitel, and Executive producers, Stuart Ford, Matt Jackson, Glendon Palmer, John Legend, Mike Jackson, Carrie Holt De Lama and Tracey Bing.

There is magnetism between the two that can’t be missed. The scene where they end up at an ice cream shop is one that seems to be a throwback to the more innocent days of young love in older films.

The film has a PG 13 rating and will open in Austin theaters on August 26th.

Source: IM Global, Roadside Attractions

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