Barack Obama has been good at a number of things, from his days as a community organizer to his being President of the United States. Unlike many people he has, even through the last eight years he’s spent at the forefront of the national stage, always been presented as just as much a family man as anything else. That’s largely because he married an incredible woman. Now the story of how Barack met Michelle Robinson is being told in slightly dramatic fashion in Southside With You.
The movie covers the first date between the pair, when Barack was still a struggling, broke but rising force on Chicago’s South Side and Michelle was a powerful figure in the community as well. She’s reluctant, not expecting this to actually be a date and the two are actually just supposed to go to a local meeting. But they wind up walking all over the neighborhoods, visiting museums and more. The rest, as they say, is history, and the movie seems to be an effort to chronicle in some manner a romance that has really captivated the nation’s imaginations over the better part of the last decade.
The one poster shows the two stars as Barack and Michelle, him looking at her in a very affectionate manner. There are a couple critics quotes, one calling it “Basically the best first date ever” and the other praising the performances of the two leads. Since those two leads are relative unknowns, the only above-the-title name here is producer John Legend. The whole thing is shown in a nice, faded image that focuses on soft, flattering lighting and kind of a classic, almost Instagram-filter like feel.
We’re dropped into the middle of a hot Chicago summer day in the first trailer as we see Michelle preparing for not-a-date with Barack, something he’s late for. He’s got a crappy car but he has some plans before they head to an event, plans that include a stop by the Chicago Cultural Center, a meeting at a local church and more. While he’s putting on the charm she’s not sold, continuing to tell him why this isn’t a date. It’s clear over the course of the trailer, though, that her resistance will be worn down.
It’s not bad, doing a good job of presenting the movie as an extended meet-cute scene that we all know the ending of. No one’s trying to do an overt impression of these real people, thankfully, though there are some obvious moments where we’re supposed to recognize certain cadences or movements from the famous couple. All in all very charming, which is just what it needs to be.
Online and Social
When the official website loads you get a background of full-motion video that plays scenes from the trailer. At the very top of the page are links to the movie’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles.
Moving back over to the content menu, first up is a “Synopsis” that gives you a decent one-paragraph overview of the movie’s story. Following that is “Cast & Crew” which is where you can expand the headshots in each sub-section to find out more about the actor or behind-the-scenes talent.
“Gallery” has five full-screen stills you can scroll through but not download. Then there’s “Reviews” which is where you’ll see some pull quotes that link to the full stories. Finally there’s a link to the “Trailer” if you’d like to rewatch that.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’ve seen, which isn’t surprising for a movie of this size. If or when it expands there’s likely to be some advertising done to promote that and it may be getting some targeted ads right now in the markets it’s opening in. But nothing mass has been done to my knowledge.
Media and Publicity
It’s interesting that, based on what I was seeing in my Twitter feed, expectations going into the movie’s Sundance debut were pretty low. As people came out, though, it seemed most were pretty positive, allowing the movie to come out of the festival with good word-of-mouth. Still, it was a while before a partnership between Roadside Attractions and Miramax bought the movie.
Sumter talked later on about how she went from just a producer to also starring in the movie, as well as casting Parker as Obama, the hurried shooting schedule and more.
It’s obvious the movie is opening now in order to draft off of election season and take advantage of how everyone is currently shoulder deep in political conversations. Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention a month ago practically served as earned media for the movie. It’s particularly well timed as it’s coming out just a few months his time in the White House will come to an end, putting a cap on a career that this movie in many respects chronicles the beginning stages of.
Thankfully the marketing here doesn’t try to sell the movie as anything other than what it is, which is a long-form walk-and-talk romantic drama. There are a few gags in the trailer that come off as a little wink-winky, like Obama’s response to Michelle asking him if he wants to get into politics, but overall this looks like the kind of low-key romantic movie that Hollywood doesn’t make very often any more. Grounded by a couple performances that don’t veer too far into impressions, it looks like it could charm audiences who check it out and would likely lead to strong word of mouth.