'Southside With You' a love story for the ages

The film lacks bells and whistles of typical Hollywood romance, but still has deep something to say

Opinion

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By Loretta A. Ragsdell

Contributing Reporter / Columnist

"Southside With You," a film about Barack and Michelle Obama's first date, which grossed nearly $3.1 million in its opening weekend despite leaving some viewers wanting more. 

Moviegoer Jasmine Clark said she was disappointed the film limited its focus to just one day in the life of the first couple she has come to love and admire.

"They could have taken us up to today, even if it was done through pictures," Clark said.

Debra Smith, another moviegoer, chimed in, "It was about their first date. We know all the rest." 

Several other moviegoers, all women, had similar comments.

The film, a synopsis of the day-long "non-date" between a reluctant young lawyer, Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama, a charming and hopeful suitor, has all the charm one might expect from a date movie, but there was little intrigue and romance one generally finds in a Hollywood love story.

Based on true events, the film does a beautiful job of depicting the defining moments Michelle stopped resisting Barack's charms and gave into love while sharing an ice cream cone and first kiss.

 Michelle, having agreed to attend a community meeting with the summer law associate she supervised, turned out to be a day-long excursion to, among other places, an art gallery where Barack shared his extensive knowledge of an artist's background and talent. 

Although the story unfolded slowly, it included a romantic walk along Chicago's lake front, drinks, a movie and the first kiss.  Absent the traditional Hollywood bells and whistles, the audience is captivated by the screen versions of Barack and Michelle, beautifully portrayed by Parker Sawyer and Tika Sumpter. Parker not only has Obama's mannerism down, but his voice is so similar to the president's that it easy to forget he's not Obama. 

The community meeting actually turned out to be a platform for the future president to showcase his phenomenal speaking skills, which aided him in impressing and winning over Michelle, who stated loudly and often throughout the day, "This is not a date until I say it is."

As the date unfolds, the two are able to explore their likes and dislikes, family challenges, and insights into what made them the people they are.

The film lacks many of the things that a multi-generational audience will appreciate and find appealing. It lacks many of the key elements of an unforgettable love story except that it is true and about the journey of two people who went on to become the world's most famous couple.

 In order to see the progression of the couple's love and "made for each otherness," you have to watch the characters' interaction and listen for subtle clues in the quick wit and verbal banter. The film is worth seeing, because of its historical depictions of tumultuous social times and black love on a level that transcends time.

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