First dates are simply the worst, a nightmare of polite small-talk about siblings and hometowns, held-in flatulence and desperate hopes that the person eating dinner across the table isn’t a serial killer. Not so for Barack and Michelle Obama, or at least, not according to the Sundance breakout Southside With You, which opens in theaters on August 26th.
Before the First Couple assumed their rightful place as the black JFK and Jackie O., they were two youngsters making tentative steps toward romance. But Richard Tanne’s account of the meet-cute between a big-eared law student from Harvard and the razor-sharp idealist mentoring him at his summer internship eschews the usual “So, did you have any pets growing up?” icebreakers. In a time before Tinder, two dreamers with big plans and the big ideas to back them up set history in motion with their passion.
Parker Sawyers plays Barry O. as a confident, quick-witted player who won’t let office decorum get in the way of his crush, and as the former Michelle Robinson, Tika Sumpter combines the indomitable optimism that still characterizes Michelle’s policies and outreach projects with a soft-screwball spiritedness. She won’t be wooed by this fast-talking charmer, except yes, of course she will. The stakes on this romance are practically non-existent (spoiler alert: they get together, the Titanic sinks, etc. etc.) but the total absence of tension gives way to a simpler, more soothing pleasure.
Barack and Michelle’s dream date is like something out of a wholesome storybook, taking the couple from an outing to Chicago’s Art Institute to a showing of Spike Lee’s incendiary classic, Do the Right Thing, to a picturesque little ice cream parlor, where the couple shared their first kiss. Irrespective of your political leanings, the couple’s intelligent rapport and playful courtship will warm the heart-chambers hardened by a constant barrage of bawdy gross-out romcoms. (Though Obama’s liberal supporters will undoubtedly be tickled by the future POTUS’ early triflings with civic duty.) We’ve only got a few months left of the Obama administration, and there’s no better way to commemorate the man, the woman and all they represent than bearing witness to the first seedlings of the greatest love story in modern politics.