Obamabots Rejoice! Movie About Barack and Michelle’s First Date Opens In Theaters This Weekend…
No, there’s nothing cult-like about this at all.
All politicians are actors. They must be, to travel the country telling the same personal anecdotes with the same emotional inflections, all while convincing constituents of their spontaneity and sincerity. When the public wants to know what politicians are really like in private, they either wait for a tell-all by the staff, or they wait for a fictionalized version that feels like it illuminates the truth as well as the facts would.
The new movie “Southside With You,” which opens Friday, is a feature film about Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date in 1989. It’s perhaps best described as a “Before Sunrise” for political wonks: the story spans a single day as the future first couple catch a movie, visit an art museum, and talk about their hopes and dreams while meandering through Chicago. On a more meta level, the movie is about the creation of the Obamas’ private-life narrative — a shaping of how the public will understand them in the future and an acknowledgment of how it sees them now.
“Movies that come out after ours are probably going to be conventional biopics,” writer/director Richard Tanne said in a recent interview when he and the film’s two stars visited D.C.. “They’ll weave in policy and history. The special thing about being able to focus on this slice of life is that you can bring into it your individual perspective, and whatever your relationship with the Obamas is.” He began working on the script even before Obama had won the 2008 election, after watching how the couple interacted: “The way they’d look at each other, flirt with each other, how authentic and sexy their love seemed to be,” he says. “It’s rare in regular people, and even rarer in public figures.”