I don’t know about you but I sometimes wonder if the world is broken beyond repair. I mean, all the bad that happens, it’s hard to process sometimes. And yet, the human spirit will always surprise you and so will people.
This is leading somewhere, don’t worry. I’m trying to big up the Obamas, like they need my shoddy cheer-leading skills. But they’re cool, right? Good, gracious and genuinely caring people who want to make a difference in the world – and have, too. I fucking miss them both.
This week we’ve taken a break from home invasion to spend 80 minutes with the best ever First Couple, before they became the FC. A heart warming prospect I’m sure.
So let’s put on our best first date outfits and get ready to be wooed. 😍
Southside With You (2016)
The film chronicles the summer 1989 afternoon when the future President of the United States, Barack Obama, wooed his future First Lady, Michelle Obama, on a first date across Chicago’s South Side.
In 1989, Barack Obama (here played by Parker Sawyers) was a lowly summer associate at a law firm in Chicago. Michelle Robinson was his supervisor and as we open, FLOTUS (and always will be) is preparing herself for a non-date with the man himself. She is adamant to anyone who mentions it that this is in no way A. Romantic. Date.
The contrast between the two prepping rituals is amusing. Michelle (Tika Sumpter) takes great pains with her appearance, while Obama is chill af. He smokes, reads and takes a call from his mother, while Michelle does her hair and make-up in the bustling apartment she shares with her family. Although these differences could be explained away as a man/woman thing I think it’s telling us far more about the characters themselves.
Michelle is a very serious woman and as the date begins, we learn she is unamused by Obama’s romantic gestures. She is reluctant to become romantically involved with anyone who may reflect badly on all the hard work she has done at the firm, as a woman in a male dominated environment but especially as a woman of colour.
Obama, unfortunately, annoyed me a little here with his persistence. I get that it’s supposed to be cute and that his perseverance obviously paid off but I am not a fan of it*. There are moments I found him condescending, though Michelle more than bats it back at him. Maybe I’m being picky and peevish, that’s just what I felt.
*That I’m a nice guy, I’ll keep asking ’til she cracks because she doesn’t know how great I am narrative sends a bad message, I think.
Once Michelle realises she’s been tricked into spending time with Obama before a meeting later that afternoon, she isn’t best pleased but slowly starts to come around. First they visit a Ernie Barnes exhibit, where both display impressive understanding and analysis of the work before them. Then they take a walk and Michelle gets involved in the local drum circle. Obama has heart eyes for days because damn is she hot.
In between each activity, the pair ask a lot of questions and get to know each other much better. Michelle learns (and so do we, the viewer) more about Obama’s mother and his time living in both Hawaii and Indonesia. She, meanwhile, is inspired to open up about her own family life.
It’s sweet obviously because these are massive global icons and some could argue the poster children for a happy, healthy power relationship – and this is where it all began.
Later at the council meeting (the one she actually agreed to), Obama wows Michelle with his eloquent and moving speech about how to fight the government to get the community centre the locals so desperately need. He speaks with ease and strength, obviously an impressive speech-maker from the get go. The meeting is a screaming success and Bam is the man of the moment.
This sets off some feelings in Mich too, who is doing Trademarking law (I think) as a career but originally wanted to help people. Somewhere between Obama’s speech and the car she’s started to doubt her path. At one point Obama also addresses the fact that he thinks she should be doing more and Michelle does not like it. I don’t like it either tbh but this is Obama and so it comes from a good place. The truth hurts anyway so both Michelle and I need to consider that.
The pair enjoy drinks (where past relationships are discussed) and then a movie (Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing), where Michelle’s worst fears come to fruition when they bump into her (white, middle-aged male) colleague. He’s pleasant enough but makes a comment that Mich construes as a dig at her doing the help (my words). This results in a heated discussion with Bam in the car.
As the great day date (and the most important first date in American history?) draws to a close, will it take a negative turn – or can Barack Obama, arguably the Greatest Leader of the Free World to date – pull it back? It’s never short of incredible what a chocolate ice cream cone can do. Just sayin’.
I thought this was sweet but only okay. As outlined above maybe I was feeling particularly pernickity but somehow this didn’t pack the emotional punch I was expecting. Maybe it was the unbearable heat we’re experiencing at the moment, but it couldn’t melt this frozen heart.
I love the Obamas and I truly love their story but something about this day in the life left me unmoved. The performances were fine but most of the interest for me hinged on the characters in the community. I wanted more of them (admittedly a tall order for such a relatively short movie).
Maybe I’m dead inside.
What did my First Lady think of this little number? Would she proudly shout her approval from the rooftops, or hide the date from her colleagues? Find out here.