By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – We’ve heard their playlists, watched them dance together, and now Americans can see Barack and Michelle Obama on their first date in a film that follows the future president wooing his future wife over the course of a day.
“Southside With You” dramatizes the Obamas’ first date in the summer of 1989 and sees Michelle Robinson, a 25-year-old lawyer from Chicago, going out with Barack Obama, a summer associate at her law firm.
Over the hours they spend together – which Michelle initially insists is not a date – the two attend an Ernie Barnes art exhibition, a community meeting, a screening of Spike Lee’s movie “Do The Right Thing,” have drinks and eat ice cream as they discuss their lives, ambitions and fears.
“You see in this film that they challenged each other, you know, and they walked in each other’s shoes and that they spoke about their family, and I just think all that stuff is very real and accessible to people,” said actress Tika Sumpter, who plays Michelle.
“Southside With You” takes details that the Obamas have shared about their first date in various interviews, and imagines the conversations they may have had.
Parker Sawyers, the actor who plays Barack Obama in the film, said he started off with a “strong impersonation” of the president, but then let the mannerisms and speech inflections of his character come naturally.
The rapport between the two is courteous and playful in the film, as Michelle feistily keeps her date at arm’s length while he uses charm to bring her guard down.
Barack Obama, who turned 28 that summer, married Michelle in 1992, three years after their first date.
The black community of Chicago’s Southside serves as a backdrop to the story. Michelle gets a glimpse of the future U.S. president’s early leadership skills when he takes her to a community meeting to find a way to build a youth center.
Later, the two momentarily clasp hands as they watch a harrowing scene in “Do The Right Thing,” where a black man dies after being placed in a chokehold by a white policeman.
“They were seeing what was happening in Chicago, and obviously Chicago is still in the news and issues between the citizens and the police are still in the news, and the president has to deal with that everyday,” said musician John Legend, an executive producer on the film.
Legend said the Obamas know about the film, adding “once they see it, if they haven’t already, I think they’ll love it.”
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Paul Simao)