"}
Film

Southside With You

Barack gets the girl

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A 20-something woman living at home prepares for a day out. Her parents tease her as she fixes her hair. Is it a date? No, just a work associate, a Harvard law student with the firm for the summer, taking her to a community meeting to discuss “broken faucets and underfunded schools.” Across town, a man in an undershirt chats with his grandmother by telephone between cigarettes and says, “Yes, her skin is of the darker persuasion.” This is how Barack met Michelle, and Southside With You will detail, in rather exaggerated, one-act-play form, how they fell in love.

He picks her up in his busted down car (forget the scuffs on Adlai Stevenson’s soles, the interior of Barack Obama’s late ’80s ride had a full-blown hole in the floor) and—surprise—turns out the event isn’t for a few hours. Barack’s been haranguing Michelle for a date for some time but, since she is technically his advisor at the corporate firm where they work, she has demurred. Some might argue his tenacity wasn’t exactly appropriate for the workplace, but Michelle’s true reason to decline invitations was more straightforward: if she, a black woman, were to date the first cute black man at the office, it would just get too many tongues wagging.

We learn all this early on because this movie is somewhat allergic to subtlety. Characters face forward and blast one another with sincere oratory, stating precisely what they feel as if they are under oath or shot-up with sodium pentothal. But as one’s ear adjusts to the, let’s call it “stylized dialogue,” it preps you for some pretty striking speeches by the third act. Michelle may protest at the start that “this is not a date” but by the time they visit an art gallery, eat sandwiches in the park, hit that community meeting, stroll along Lake Michigan, get beers, argue over Stevie Wonder albums, share their dreams, catch Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, squirm (for just an instant) under the gaze of their white colleagues and finally get ice cream, you know these two are going to be together forever.

To quote the 43rd President of the United States, let me be clear: there’s something admittedly odd about Southside For You’s very existence. Films glorifying sitting leaders are a little more North Korea’s bag. It is, without question, pure hagiography. That said, by all accounts Barack and Michelle Obama are warm, caring people. Considering the absurd lengths the rightwing has gone to defenestrate the man, and have yet to uncover any monkey business, it’s fair to say that their love is true.

The surface-level comparison for the film is Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walking around various cities and falling in love), but that level of depth is very much lacking in writer-director Richard Tanne’s script. But Southside With You uses our affection for the Obamas to add urgency to the otherwise simple script. We want these two to get together, and we want them to say things like: “I just want to do more to help out.”

The heart of the film, and the sequence that may cause some true believers to retrieve their hankies, is seeing young Barack rallying the disenfranchised members of the the Gardens, explaining that the way toward any goal is not to hate their adversary, but to try and understand them, and to switch the letters of every bureaucratic “no” into a rally “on.” Knowing his prowess as a public speaker, did he invite Michelle there just to see him strut his stuff? Hard to tell, but when Spike Lee’s Mookie hurls a trash can through the window of Sal’s Famous to rage against injustice, he’s also helping our hero Barack get the girl. It’s a pretty astounding moment in meta-cinema.

Zoots Banner
More Film...
Doctober
Handling the truth

By now, everyone knows that when I’m not executing my Cascadia Weekly duties, I’m moonlighting as a projectionist at the Pickford Film Center.

While the Pickford is currently offering its customary selection of top-notch indie movies, behind the scenes, all conversation revolves…

more »
London Road
A musical murder mystery

The techniques of verbatim theater go back decades, to at least the 1950s, when young German theater troupes would reenact complicated court cases word for word onstage. Even earlier, in the United States, the WPA paid for a form of this performance with its “Living Newspapers,” in…

more »
The Magnificent Seven
Another day, another remake

The big difference between the new version of The Magnificent Seven and the revered 1960 feature is the ethnic background of the main characters. The titular seven in director Antoine Fuqua’s take are a diverse bunch, while the ruthless villain of the piece is no longer a Mexican bandito…

more »
Events
Today
A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Bellingham City Club Meeting

11:30am|Northwood Hall

Lynden Book Club

12:30pm|Lynden Library

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Fun with Fermentation

4:00pm|Blaine Library

Ukulele for Everyone

4:00pm|Everson Library

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Bokashi Composting

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Bebel Gilberto

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Teton Gravity Research's Tight Loose

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Bebel Gilberto

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Northwood Steak and Crab
Tomorrow
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Ensembulele

4:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Final After-Hours Market

4:00pm|Depot Market Square

Autumn Soups

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Tame Your Inner Critic

7:00pm|Village Books

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Looking for Betty MacDonald

7:30pm|Village Books

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Mount Baker Theatre Everybody’s Store
Friday
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Music Man

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Miracle Worker

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Little Women

7:30pm|Whidbey Playhouse

Wild Things

9:30am|Whatcom Falls Park

Quilt & Fiber Arts Festival

10:00am|La Conner

Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Spanish Storytime

10:30am|Lynden Library

Ferndale Farmers Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Get an edible education

4:00pm

Autumn Celebration Dinner

5:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Love, Loss and What I Wore

7:30pm|Heiner Auditorium

Hellingham

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Handling the truth

9:35pm

see our complete calendar »

CW BOB 2016 Everybody’s Store Northwood Steak and Crab Artifacts Wine Bar Andrew Subin Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Mount Baker Theatre Swinomish 2016 Bellingham Farmer’s Market Village Books Zoots Side Bar