Follows a new couple and their families, who find themselves examining modern love and family dynamics amidst clashing cultures, societal expectations and generational differences.

Chuck says:

Kenya Barris’ “You People” is an odd combination of traditional storytelling and progressive politics, a film that has a great deal to say but can’t find a new way to say it.  Adhering to the plot structure used by “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” and “Meet the Fockers,” the movie’s humor – most of it effective – stems from fish-out-of-water situations, its characters floundering about, trying to save face while adrift in a sea of awkwardness. It’s a time-honored approach that yields many humorous dividends in the hands of the movie’s veteran cast and had Barris and co-writer Jonah Hill stuck to this approach throughout, their message concerning modern race relations might have gone down a bit easier.  Unfortunately, the film’s preachiness gets in the way at times of its theme, a sense of overkill keeping the viewer at arms-length rather than prompting them to feel or think.

Ezra (Hill) is a 35-year-old with a decent job but little in the way of a social life.  Realizing he needs more than one-night stands, he takes a chance and asks out Amira (Lauren London), a fashion designer he meets after mistaking her for an Uber driver. Things go better than expected, time passes and the relationship progresses to the point where the inevitable can no longer be delayed – they have to meet each other’s parents.

As these sequences unfold, it becomes obvious there’s nothing new at play where the situations are concerned but the issues covered in them have. Ezra’s parents Shelley and Arnold (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny) are acutely aware of the issues of race that are at play and overcompensate, going out of their way to mention black causes they have championed and insist they understand how Amira and her parents feel.  On the flip side, Akbar and Fatima (Eddie Murphy and Nia Long) wear their anger as if it is a badge of honor, hyper-sensitive to any act they view as aggressive or racist, calling out the perceived offender at the drop of a hat.

Barris and Hill have a great deal to say about these issues, some of it coming out on the podcast Ezra does in his part-time with his black, trans friend Mo (Sam Jay). Their conversations are honest and heartfelt, the comfortable nature of their friendship allowing them to speak with candor, having no fear of being called out for being insensitive. This allows them to inch towards an understanding of each other, something Ezra isn’t afforded by his perspective in-laws. This is perhaps the film’s strongest statement – that understanding comes with time, experience and understanding, a conceit that’s often obscured by anger.

The journey Ezra and Amira take is genuine, Hill and London’s chemistry going a long way towards convincing us each would be willing to endure the trials they face. Equally effective is the first-dinner sequence in which Shelley and Arnold make the mistake of comparing the Holocaust to slavery, drawing the ire of Akbar and Fatima, as good intentions are misconstrued and anger clouds sound judgement. The film is effective in these moments because there’s an honesty in the way these issues are being handled and, most importantly, none of the parties are being judged or vilified.

It’s unfortunate Barris and Hill fallback on a Hollywood ending that was old hat 50 years ago. But I forgive them that not only does it give the audience what it wants – a sense of hope. To be sure, things are dire in the area of race relations at the moment and “People” isn’t naïve enough to suggest the issue can be solved any time soon.  The writers know full well this will always be an issue for our nation, yet they subscribe to a sense of optimism, their film providing a picture of two disparate cultures finding common ground and that’s something.

2 1/2 Stars


Pam says:

Love conquers all, right?  Maybe not as we see in “You People,” c0-written by Jonah Hill and Kenya Barris and directed by Barris.  It’s an all-star cast, too, with Hill in the lead as Ezra, a nice Jewish young man whose mom Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Dad Arnold (David Duchovny) tap into their open-minded liberal side to welcome Ezra’s new girlfriend Amira (Lauren London) who happens to be Black.  It’s no piece of cake for Ezra as he asks for Amira’s hand in marriage from Akbar (Eddie Murphy) and Fatima (Nia Long) who are more than skeptical about this white man-child marrying their only daughter.

While the awkwardness is expected but what’s not expected is the boldly blatant responses from various characters throughout the film.  “You People” doesn’t pull any punches as the writers present a buffet of racist and stereotypical statements and lean hard into it.  It’s a verbal smorgasbord from both sides of the fence, but in this situation, we, the viewer, get a taste of both sides.  One of the standout characters to really open someone’s eyes is Mo played by Sam Jay.  Mo and Ezra have a podcast that discusses “culture.”  What it really does is delve deeply and openly into the issue of racism in America.

Of course, this movie funny.  How could you have anything but hilarious with Murphy, Hill, and Dreyfus?  And as we’re having fun watching this sweet and in-love couple figure out whether or not they can handle marrying into one another’s families, the plot quickly moves forward to give us more than just another romantic comedy; it actually poses interesting and thoughtful questions and insights about how we look at others in a different race.

Dreyfus’s Shelley could easily represent many women her age you’ve encountered; well-meaning but offensively so.  Duchovny’s Arnold is clueless in his little bubble and together they are the stereotypical white Jewish family that so perfectly balances Murphy’s Akbar and Long’s Fatima who see the world through a very different lens.  Let’s just say that family dinners and special events become so much more memorable.

But with any good romantic comedy, no matter how much fun it is or if the writers can be poignant within the film, you have to have chemistry between the leads and “You People” has it.  Hill and London have that spark that grows and we root for them as obstacles are placed in the way of “happily ever after.”  Hey, it’s a rom-com so it still has to follow a formula and it does, but as long as we connect with the couple, that’s perfectly fine.  Hill and London find the right beat and create a story that we have to find out how it ends…well, we know how it’s going to end, but we need to know how they get there.  It’s the journey, right?

3 1/2 Star

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