Review: In an Obama Biopic, the Audacity of Hagiography?
“Something else is pulling at me,” the gangly young man with the jug ears says. “I wonder if I can write books or hold a position of influence in civil rights,” he adds. “Politics?” the pretty young woman asks. He shrugs. “Maybe.”
At that point in the romantic idyll “Southside With You,” these two conversationalists are well into one of those intimate walk-and-talks future lovers sometimes share, the kind in which day turns into night and night sometimes turns into the next day (and the day after that). As they amble through one Chicago neighborhood after another — pausing here, driving there — they also meander down their memory lanes. He’s from Hawaii and Indonesia. She’s from Chicago, the South Side. He’s going to Harvard Law. She’s been there, done that, and is now practicing law. You see where this is going.
在浪漫田园诗般的电影《南边有你》(Southside With You)的这个时刻，这两个健谈的人已经进入亲密的边走边谈阶段——人们在成为恋人之前往往会有那么一个阶段——他们能从白天谈到晚上，第二天接着谈（再过一天还在谈）。他们漫步于芝加哥的一个又一个街区——在这儿逗留一会儿，开车去那儿逛一会儿——他们也沿着记忆中的小巷漫步。他来自夏威夷和印度尼西亚。她来自芝加哥南城。他将要去哈佛读法律。她已从那里毕业，正在从事法律工作。你猜得出来后续吧。
Sweet, slight and thuddingly sincere, “Southside With You” is a fictional re-creation of Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date. It’s a curious conceit for a movie less because as dates go this one is pretty low key but because the writer-director Richard Tanne mistakes faithfulness for truthfulness. He’s obviously interested in the Obamas, but he’s so cautious and worshipful that there’s nothing here to discover, only characters to admire. Every so often, you catch a glimpse of two people seeing each other as if for the first time; mostly, though, the movie just sets a course for the White House. “You definitely have a knack for making speeches,” Michelle says. Yes he does (can).
甜蜜、轻松而又真诚的《南边有你》是对巴拉克和米歇尔·奥巴马(Barack and Michelle Obama)第一次约会的虚构重现。对一部电影来说，它有一种奇怪的自负，不是因为约会平淡无奇，而是因为编剧兼导演理查德·坦恩(Richard Tanne)误把真诚当成真实。他显然对奥巴马夫妇感兴趣，不过他太过谨慎，太多崇拜，所以这部影片没什么好挖掘的——除了令人倾慕的人物。你经常能在片中看到两人像初次相见时那样深情对望，不过这部电影似乎主要是为他们最终走向白宫做铺垫。“你显然具有演讲才能，”米歇尔说。他的确有（是的，他能）。
The story opens with Michelle (Tika Sumpter) talking about Barack (Parker Sawyers) to her parents (“Barack o-what-a?” says dad), while he tells his grandmother about Michelle. She’s his adviser at the firm where he’s a summer associate. Barack digs her; Michelle thinks their dating would be inappropriate. Still, he perseveres with gentle confidence, chipping away at her defenses with searching disquisitions, a park-bench lunch and a visit to an art show, where this stealth-seducer recites lines from Gwendolyn Brooks’s short poem “We Real Cool,” an ominous, disconcerting pre-mortem of some young men shooting pool that closes with the words “We die soon.”
故事的开头是米歇尔（蒂卡·桑普特[Tika Sumpter]饰）跟父母谈起巴拉克（帕克·索耶斯[Parker Sawyers]饰）（米歇尔的爸爸问道，“巴拉克·奥什么？”），而巴拉克跟外祖母谈起米歇尔。当时他在一家公司做暑期实习生，米歇尔是他的指导老师。巴拉克追求米歇尔，而米歇尔觉得他们不合适。不过，他带着温和的自信坚持不懈，通过寻找专题演讲、一次公园长凳午餐以及参观一个艺术展，一点一点打破了她的防线。在艺术展上，这位秘密追求者背诵了格温德琳·布鲁克斯(Gwendolyn Brooks)的短诗《我们真的很酷》(We Real Cool)，这首令人不安的预示死亡的不祥诗歌，讲述的是几名打台球的年轻男子。诗的最后一句是：“我们很快就会死。”
Like Michelle and Barack’s journey through Chicago, the poem raises a cluster of ideas — literary, political, philosophical — about Barack, suggesting where he’s at and where he’s going. Mr. Tanne has clearly made a close study of his real-life inspirations, yet his movie is soon hostage to the couple’s history. His characters feel on loan and, despite his actors, eventually make for dull company because too many lines and details serve the great-man-to-be story rather than the romance. At the art show, when Barack explains that the painter Ernie Barnes did the canvases featured in the sitcom “Good Times,” it isn’t just a guy trying to impress a date; it’s a setup for another big moment.
与米歇尔和巴拉克在芝加哥的旅程一样，这首诗反映出巴拉克在文学、政治和哲学方面的观点——表明他身在何处，将去往哪里。坦恩显然仔细研究过巴拉克的真实生活，来作为创作灵感的来源。不过他的电影很快受制于这对伴侣的历史。尽管他选用了很好的演员，但这些角色感觉像是临时借来的，最终沦为乏味的陪衬，因为有太多台词和细节是为他后来成为伟人做铺垫，而不是为了讲述这段恋情。在艺术展上，巴拉克提到厄尼·巴恩斯(Ernie Barnes)的那幅油画曾经出现在情景喜剧《好时光》(Good Times)里——这不只是要展现一个努力给约会对象留下好印象的人，而是为了给另一个重要时刻做铺垫。
Ms. Sumpter’s enunciation has a near-metonymic precision suggestive of Mrs. Obama’s, while Mr. Sawyers’s gestural looseness, playful smile and lanky saunter will be familiar. Mr. Sawyers has the better, more satisfying role, partly because of who he plays, though also because Barack is more complex and vulnerable. He is the one with the thorny father issues who is trying to win over the girl (the audience, the nation). He’s hard to resist even if, by the time he takes Michelle to a community meeting in a housing project — where the aspirations of the family in “Good Times” meet their real-world counterpart — his words sound like footnotes in a political biography.
Mr. Obama wrote one such book, “The Audacity of Hope,” in which he describes this first date in a scene that’s echoed in the movie. “I asked if I could kiss her,” Mr. Obama writes, before cutting loose his smooth operator: “It tasted of chocolate.” It’s no surprise that Mr. Obama is a better writer than Mr. Tanne and has a stronger sense of drama. But it’s too bad that while Mr. Obama’s story about his date has tension, a moral and politics, Mr. Tanne’s has plaster saints. Abraham Lincoln was long dead when John Ford polished the presidential halo in the 1939 film “Young Mr. Lincoln.” Mr. Obama hasn’t even left office, but the cinematic hagiography has begun.
奥巴马写过这样一本书：《无畏的希望》(The Audacity of Hope)，他在其中描述了第一次约会的情景——电影中也有这一幕。“我问她我能不能亲她，”奥巴马写道。然后显现出他很会甜言蜜语的一面：“那感觉像品尝巧克力。”奥巴马当然是比坦恩更擅于写作，有更强的戏剧感。不过，糟糕的是，奥巴马关于那次约会的故事有道德和政治方面的张力，而坦恩的故事里只有道德完人。约翰·福特(John Ford)在1939年的影片《青年林肯》(Young Mr. Lincoln)中给这位总统涂上光环时，亚伯拉罕·林肯(Abraham Lincoln)早已过世。而奥巴马尚未离任，将他描绘成圣人的电影就已经上映了。
“Southside With You” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned) for cigarette smoking. Running time: 1 hour 24 minutes.