Movie reviews: Hollywood and Indie, specializing in independent comedies, dramas, thrillers and romance.
Friday, January 20, 2023
You People: Movie Review
A funny and traditional rom-com tackling modern racial differences.
Writer and director Kenya Barris, known for Black-ish and Girls Trip, now turns his sights to a more traditional rom-com. A rom-com featuring an interracial couple and meddling parents who make life so difficult for the pair that they’re out here questioning if blacks and whites can even be friends. But don’t worry, you’ll be laughing too hard to spend too much time worrying about the state of society.
Directed by: Kenya Barris
Screenplay by: Kenya Barris, Jonah Hill
Starring: Jonah Hill, Lauren London, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Eddie Murphy
You People tackles class differences and racial differences along with a ton of laughs in a modern-day Los Angeles. Ezra (Jonah Hill) is a finance bro from a rich, white, Jewish family, who rolls his eyes at his family’s religious customs, and moonlights as one-half of a podcasting duo discussing cultural topics. He gets frustrated when people expect him to narrow down the topic of the podcast, but the wider the range of topics, the wider the audience. Ezra feels he understands the black experience reasonably well – a man raised on hip hop, plays street basketball, visits (gentrified) black neighbourhoods in LA, and his podcast partner is a black woman. A white man who understands his privilege and can interact like any other well-cultured person. Until he meets Amira and her father. The casting is perfect. Jonah Hill embodies that character to a tee and can play it hilariously and respectfully.
Amira (Lauren London) is fed up with her on-again off-again boyfriend who spends all his time trying to show her how perfect they are together. He’s full of fake platitudes and reflecting her interests with no honesty. Amira’s too confident in herself to put up with that bullshit. After a racist meet-cute with Ezra, they end up getting to know each other and falling in love. They’re too people with similar values, can respect one another with no judgement. Two people who embody the traits of elder Millennials and represent a lot of people about to enter their 40s. Ezra’s trying to shed his parents’ traditions while finding a more fulfilling career; Amira is constantly fighting racial stereotypes and run her own business. They’re a great couple because it’s easy to see how well they connect with one another.
Their parents are a whole new problem. The parental issues are the core of the movie, but the comedy doesn’t let up. Ezra brings Amira home to meet his family. His mother Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) is the prototypical white suburban progressive mom. She has to introduce her daughter Liza (Molly Gordon) as gay because it’s a chance to show off her progressiveness. She’s overly friendly with Amira to the point of complimenting her hair, bringing up police brutality within the first two minutes of meeting her, and then trying to argue that her job is the same as Amira’s. Ezra wants none of it. His mother is acting exactly as he expected her to, and it’s embarrassing to him. But Amira sees it exactly for what it is: she’s her trophy. Her black future-daughter-in-law is a token that she can hold up as a symbol of how perfect their life is now that she’s more progressive than her friends.
Meanwhile, Ezra takes it upon himself to meet Amira’s parents. Her father Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and mother (Nia Long) hate him from the get-go. He’s white and not Muslim and keeps talking because he doesn’t know when to shut up. He doesn’t realize how different their worlds are. Akbar values his culture and his religion, where he came from, and hates seeing any of that co-opted by white people who don’t share his experiences. Ezra represents everything that he hates. Amira doesn’t need her parents blessing so the two proceed with their wedding plans.
The structure of the movie follows a lot of culture-clash (or class differences) rom-coms like Father of the Bride. The happy couple and their dream day destined to be destroyed by families who can’t get along. I enjoyed that structure a lot more here because the families don’t get along for good reason. Shelley tries arguing that the Jewish struggles are identical to the Black struggles and is blind to her passive aggressive responses to her offensive comments. There is a lot of accuracy of how racial differences arise within our still evolving society.
You People is very funny and Ezra and Amira’s responses to their families hatred and differences are handled with perfect emotion. The ending comes too easily (a problem common with most big budget studio rom-coms that need everything in a neat and tidy bow), but the casting is perfect.
Available on Netflix worldwide
Something Similar But Different:
Emergency (2022) - A smart and funny dark comedy tackling racism and class differences on a college campus.
Breaking Fast (2020) - A mature and heartfelt romantic dramedy about homosexuality and religion set during Ramadan.