You People Review

You People
You People
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Romantic comedies often exhibit an inherent lack of reality in their third-act resolutions that come easily. Sentimental confessions, singular acts of love, or a reconciliation – we know how it goes. So what happens when this formula is applied to a film about racial tension? That’d be a recipe for disaster but You People (directed by Kenya Barris, creator of Blackish) is a hilarious and thought-provoking comedy with never-seen-before energy which surely would have been a hit at the Box Office if Netflix had given it just a little better chance. Though the end feels too neat, we were taken from one place to another in an unexpected way with tons of humor in between, exploring what happens when you take out the typical WASP romantic leads from Hollywood’s traditional business professional image and replace them with a white Jewish podcaster and a black Muslim clothier by tossing both families into the mix.

Ezra (Jonah Hill), an introverted stockbroker who is laidback during his day job, runs a podcast on culture on weekends with Mo (His cisgender female African-American friend), where he gives him some candid advice. Unlike most other gentlemen at his well-to-do synagogue, Ezra does not make such a big deal of himself but he always wears fancy sneakers as well as proudly displays his tattoos. Grown-up in LA where Hip Hop culture dominated him made him stay more “with it” than thirty-five-year-old Caucasians in general so Jonah gets the unusual opportunity to portray somebody who is comfortable being loved and even adored most times while simultaneously playing straight guy against a couple of people sillier yet more awkward than him. Except for discussing anything else apart from black art, protest, and politics, these two men also politely insult each others’ racial backgrounds although they do it through their jokes seamlessly along with gestures (think less edgy FLAGRANT or Tiger Belly), thus allowing access not only into this movie’s well-known political milieu, but its casual approach to addressing controversial issues that mainstream American comedies often avoid.

Whereas a 2005 Hollywood comedy would take Ezra as either a character or an outsider, You People sees the implications of cultural and clothing transmission more subtly. Hill exhibits that too by gingerly negotiating appropriateness for himself—until the movie calls on him to jump right into comic recklessness.

As both his day job and dating life hit a plateau he grows closer to giving them up altogether because they do not feel right anymore. However, having started with a somewhat clumsy date with Amira (Lauren London) who is talkative yet independent even in her career aspirations similar to those of Ezra in showbiz, this becomes fun when the silence surrounding issues like “When will this guy have his racial faux pas?” is broken as soon as they become comfortable together. At least you would expect studio comedies from going in such a direction with Ezra around Amira (at least not so obviously ignorant and racist). They also know quite much about their separate races and how they never dated outside those groups before.

However, it is not a problem for these two and they still make a cute couple (it’s also nice to see an on-screen couple who are not only not in conformity with Hollywood’s narrow body standards but are never treated as such.). But as their relationship goes on and the inevitable question of marriage approaches, things can no longer remain simple.

On one hand, Ezra’s parents – the talkative and nervous Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and the often absent-minded Arnold (David Duchovny) – are pushy and desperate to be seen as socially conscious white people post George Floyd. Unfortunately, Duchovny gets lost in the shuffle with little more than the occasional faux-pas. On her side, however, Louis-Dreyfus is able to transform her signature masterful timing into well-intentioned conversations that show both sides of any miscommunication between characters with crystal clarity for an audience. Even when she isn’t trying to maintain Amira’s comfort level, there isn’t much really that needs deciphering even if she doesn’t speak clearly enough – sometimes leading to disastrous results- like Get Out meet-the-parents chapter where it extends almost throughout its second half– though it wasn’t about body-swapping but instead the painful awkwardness of well-meaning liberal racism.

On the other hand, Amira’s parents – Akbar (Eddie Murphy), who is intense and stone-faced; alongside reserved yet probing Fatima (Nia Long) –are turned off by Ezra’s obvious attempt at pleasing them. The fact that You People offers neither Long nor Murphy chances to properly play themselves makes Murphy particularly interesting because he always seems underplayed so often [Duchovny’s character too]. For instance, Shelley has some funny lines with Amira but whenever Eddie Murphy takes over it becomes hilarious.

His frown-based portrayal of Akbar is comedic gold whether or not he is intimidating Ezra into a stuttering, confused mess – he could be the most politically correct white guy in a room of white people but not around Akbar – or when he dates the Cohen family and turns their chat towards uncomfortable and even adversarial territory amidst their faltering attempts to gain acceptance. In Get Out, for example, the meet-the-parents scene is played out over most of its second half; however, instead of body-swapping what’s terrible about it is well-intentioned liberal racism.

A lot of American studio comedy relies on an insult-first approach that makes the “joke” nothing more than a verbose and self-evident one-liner. However, in You People, each scene by Barris and Hill (who wrote it together) contains many racially charged starts off as touchy subjects are brought up. Not only do we laugh at how audacious these eventual punchlines are but also the intense anticipation every time Akbar makes ordinary conversations with Ezra turn into knowledge tests on Black culture while Cohens and Mohammeds sometimes unintentionally step on each other’s toes.

Another particularly refreshing aspect of the film is that, although much of the comedy is derived from unaware or well-intentioned whites who might not intend to be racially insensitive – a familiar Hollywood comedic trope for many decades – You People avoids this trap. While another movie less interested in the inner lives of its Black characters might just move past the joke, You People keeps repeating it with fresh and funnier mixtures each time but also lets us know how Amira is actually coping with sustained low-level offenses and how they pile up over time. An effective B-plot is thus created, which enriches the overall question of the movie’s central love affair. Similarly, Akbar alternating between shunning Ezra and trying to humiliate him before his black friends provides some individual hilarity but their culmination in the story ends up having an emotional impact not only on Ezra himself but also on Cohen-Mohammed dynamics as a whole.

You People never rests, along its path, it also manages to offer pulsating configurations that bind its narratives within a wider L.A. tapestry. Scene transitions and establishing shots defy expected simplicity instead taking shape as graffiti-style music video-like collages set against backdrops featuring local rap legends including Nipsey Hussle. Its color palette is California-warm and though its production design may not be particularly noteworthy, it aims at creating distinctly different cultural spaces for these characters to inhabit. Ultimately this film explores how differently these two families navigate these spaces both physically and emotionally with those differences simply being made to coexist or cohabitate if you may.

The Cohens are supposed to be incompatible with Mohammeds who express all their thoughts behind smiles and have very little reservations (in Akbar’s case outright disapproval). But any scene involving either family within their respective worlds/communities – often more freely – indicates that this cultural stalemate cannot easily be overcome anytime soon.


With plenty of awkward humor, You People takes on an internal culture clash that forces its white and black characters to address tough subjects with each other before they finally do. It may have an unrealistic idea of resolution, but Jonah Hill and Lauren London are a relatable couple, and their interactions with their outlandish parents (especially Julia Louis-Dryfus and Eddie Murphy) supply its funniest moments.

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