Southside With You — the highly-anticipated biopic about a young Barack Obama’s first date with Michelle Robinson in Chicago in the summer of 1989 — is being released at just the right time, according to director Richard Tanne.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Tanne said that he believes his film, in theaters Friday, can help moviegoers take their minds off of a contentious presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
“I think it’s probably going to be a refresher in this election season,” Tanne told THR. “It’s a very humanizing portrait of these two people. It’s not that I intended to humanize them so that people would take another look at them politically — I was just trying to tell another story about their lives and that requires showing humanity. I’ll be really interested to see if it does become a part of the great conversation.”
Tanne, who makes his feature film directorial debut with Southside, said he never intended to make a biopic about President Obama or First Lady Michelle Obama, but was struck by the “love and connection” they shared early on during the president’s first term.
“And then I read about their first date, where she gave him one day to prove himself and by her admission he had done just that,” Tanne told THR. “It felt like a relatable conflict to me and a conflict worthy of a romantic drama. My interest always and only stemmed from telling the story of this first date.”
Southside With You follows the eventual President and First Lady on their first date in Chicago, where they visited an art exhibit, took in a screening of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and had their first kiss outside of an ice cream shop. The movie has earned rave early reviews, with a current rating of 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and particular praise singled out for its two leads, Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter.
“I told them: ‘You guys are performing a play called Southside With You every night for the month of July,'” Tanne told THR of the rigorousness of the film’s production schedule.
Read Tanne’s full interview with THR here.
Southside With You is in theaters August 26.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum