For Reel

Southside With You (2016)
October 2, 2016, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Richard Tanne
3.5 Stars
southside-with-youPart of the appeal of Richard Linklater’s Before series was the ordinariness of it—at his core, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) was a floundering romantic with the same flaws and insecurities that many of us possess. The critical conversation about those films often details how honestly they portray the conversations between average couples. Southside With You, then, seems wrongheaded from the very beginning. How does one translate that sense of intimacy into what is largely a political fan fiction? When a young Barack Obama (impressively played by Parker Sawyers) emerges as a major voice during a community meeting, the film slips into a hagiographical biopic. And yet, if the heft of its subjects is sometimes at odds with its modest ambitions, Southside With You gets by on its more simple, immediate charms—the way that Obama is characterized as a persistent flirt, the way Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter) slowly warms up to him, and the conversational tangents shared between intelligent people who both have a great big world ahead of them. More than that, writer-director Richard Tanne is in tune with the ways that couples recount their own earliest memories—that we are witnessing a retelling of the first date between the President and the First Lady gives their scenes an incredible import, and yet every couple similarly comes from seemingly modest beginnings that ultimately serve as the foundation for a future to come.

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