Any expectations I had of another predictable love story — gone. Chicago as “Chi-raq” is now questionable. I did not experience what it is like to fall in love on the South Side of Chicago. I experienced the South Side community of Chicago with the Obamas, whose love was just as natural as it was inevitable.
Their astounding academic backgrounds of Columbia University, Princeton University and Harvard Law School were mere afterthoughts.
For the 90 minutes of “Southside With You,” Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter, a perfectly casted duo as Barack and Michelle Obama, showed us two people. The man who had trouble forgiving his father’s shortcomings and the woman who wanted to continue the work ethic of her father — who, day after day, worked as a city water plant employee despite suffering from multiple sclerosis.
We saw a younger Barack Obama and got to know Michelle Robinson.
Their first date — or “not a date,” as described by the future Mrs. Obama — was chronicled in their one-day adventure throughout Chicago. The moments in the independent film in which Barack and Michelle Obama fell in love are crystal clear. They were clear in the moments of their lengthy date that showed their personalities.
Their initially unadmitted love and curiosity for one another carried them from an art museum to Michelle’s spontaneous, joy-filled African dance ritual with a bright-eyed, little black girl in the park.
A powerful moment toward the end of the movie was Barack’s monologue, powerfully delivered by Sawyers, to his community on how attending Harvard does not elevate his social status, but taught him not be discouraged when told “no.”
“The Haves and the Have Nots” actress, Sumpter, took the lead over Sawyers and quite frankly he had no choice, as she effortlessly picked up the vernacular and surprisingly “tough cookie” attitude of Michelle. She declined Barack’s advances, not because he wasn’t attractive or lacked wit, but because of her reality —being a Black woman in the predominantly white and male field of law.
She did not want her dating her colleague Barack to be viewed as a move by her to move up in the ranks at the law office or that it made her incapable of doing her job.
The drive to be taken seriously in her field was one of her buttons that was pushed and twisted by Sawyers’ micro-aggressions of raised eyebrows and puffs of cigarette smoke in response to her frustrations with the Sidley Austin law firm. His sympathy seemed absent, because he simply couldn’t relate. Even so, Sawyers remained smooth and impressionable in his carriage and likeness of Obama.
Michelle had resistance to following the pattern of becoming an accessory to a man. The gentleman, Barack, still obliged her. Despite giving her the side-eye, he gave in to her preference of chocolate ice cream over pie. Michelle seemed as if she could not help giving into her love for chocolate ice cream and growing love for him.
The film shows the makings of the one of the most fascinating and powerful couples of our time. It shows Barack’s knack for giving eloquent speeches. It shows the root of Michelle’s passion for empowering women.
Their first date reflected all the barriers they would have to break to become the first black president and first lady of the United States.
My only wish is that I saw more, because I was in awe at the impact and relevancy of these two individuals to the Chicago community and to each other.