"You People" stars Jonah Hill, Lauren London, David Duchovny, Nia Long, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Eddie Murphy. Released on Netflix on January 27, 2023, the film has a man attempting to impress his girlfriend's parents.
The film was directed by Kenya Barris, who's known for creating shows like "America's Next Top Model" and "Black-ish". He also wrote screenplays for films like "Girls Trip" and "Coming 2 America". In every relationship lies the biggest challenge one has to face to get their blessings: meeting their parents. Introducing yourself to the parents may seem easy, but once you get to the conversations, it swiftly becomes a matter of life and death, especially when they involve their different beliefs. Netflix is about to have another exciting year regarding its original movie slate throughout 2023. The streaming service started the year a few weeks ago with the drama film, "Dog Gone", starring Rob Lowe. If you're wondering how it was, you're asking the wrong person because I neglected to watch it. To make up for that, I decided to start Netflix's new movie season with an adult-rated comedy centering on families who don't have much in common. It's got a star-studded cast, including Jonah Hill (who also co-wrote the script) and Eddie Murphy, and Kenya Barris, who's fresh off the heels of his successful comedy series, "Black-ish". But are they enough to deliver a family get-together that's both hysterical and timely? Let's find out.
The story follows Ezra Cohen (Hill), a thirty-five-year-old broker and podcaster. He unexpectedly starts a relationship with a fashion designer named Amira Mohammed (London) after a brief mishap. Although, it wouldn't appear that the two have much in common, as Ezra is white and Jewish, and Amira is black and Muslim. Six months into their relationship, Ezra and Amira take each other to meet their parents to earn their approval. However, their visits result in some embarrassing conversations and high suspicions of their differences, mainly from Amira's stoic father, Akbar (Murphy), who prefers her to date a Muslim. When their parents encounter each other, Ezra and Amira struggle to survive their parents' awkwardness and their relationship.
There's a reason I wanted to check out this film since the trailer first came out. Aside from its star-studded cast, I wanted to watch the movie because of how relatable its concept was, not just to me but also to my family. With the film centering on an interracial couple amid racial tension, it reminded me of what my parents went through since my mom is white and my dad is black. I'm not going to explain it in full detail, but I can say that their experience was rough, but they managed to survive the racial tension and gave birth to two wonderful children, including yours truly. So it was nice to see Netflix release a movie about this uneasy topic, especially from a filmmaker known for his works involving black culture.
The film is basically the modern version of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner", another film involving an interracial relationship, and "Meet the Parents". It features the usual storyline of someone meeting their loved one's parents, with one of them disapproving of their grown child's choice. It also includes plenty of cultural clashes, societal expectations, and generational differences in the characters and their conversations and actions. Some may not be for the faint of heart, but it's easy to admit they're still relevant in today's society. While it may not be the best depiction of its social commentary, "You People" is admirable for portraying it in a provocative and honest light while also delivering a charming rom-com rooted in its core.
If there's one concern I had with the film, it would be the humor. With the comedy involving awkward conversations featuring race, microaggressions, and religion, it would be tricky to tickle someone's funny bones without offending them. Comedy is subjective, but recently, people can get easily insulted by one little joke involving their lives and traditions. So I was skeptical about how Kenya Barris would handle this subject in a romantic comedy. Thankfully, Barris was able to accomplish this complex goal. There were a few moments where its racial humor was a bit much, especially the ones that weren't even funny in the first place. However, those moments are also portrayed in a way that's both relatable and smart. Regarding the screenplay by Barris and Jonah Hill, the film represents the awkwardness of these embarrassing conversations and the self-awareness of how offensive they turn out. More importantly, it reflects the importance of understanding people regardless of race and culture instead of making accusations that may be hurtful. It might not break any new ground regarding its "meeting the parents" narrative, but it does prevent itself from being overly heavy-handed and poorly insulting.
Jonah Hill has come a long way since his early "Superbad" days, and he's still going strong recently. While I did enjoy him for his comedic roles, I also respect him for stepping out of his comfort zone, mainly for his directorial debut "Mid90s" and his role in "You People". Even though his performance as Ezra doesn't go all out with the humor, Hill still provides a sincere and charming presence fit for a hard-working actor like him. Lauren London also did a decent job with her performance as Amira, and Eddie Murphy was suitably talented as Akbar. Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Shelley is the type of performance you'd either like or hate depending on your tolerance toward tone-deaf characters. Louis-Dreyfus plays the mother of Ezra, who doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut before she's about to say something inappropriate. A few parts involving her were genuinely funny, while some were admittedly in poor taste. Regardless, I thought she did well in elevating the movie with her humor.
As for its other flaws, the film could've been at least ten minutes shorter to avoid padding in its humor. I also wasn't a fan of the movie's transitions whenever it goes from one scene to the next. There's just something about them that looked very "sitcom-y". It's like they watched a sitcom from the early 2000s, saw those stylish transitions, and inserted them into the final cut. As a result, they made the movie look like something out of a television show. But on the other hand, they reflect the hip authenticity of Los Angeles and the film's soundtrack.
Overall, "You People" has Kenya Barris providing a mildly humorous and charming romantic comedy that goes hand-in-hand with its social commentary. While the humor struggled to walk the line between hilarity and heavy-handedness sometimes, the movie offers an honest and thought-provoking depiction of its timely dilemma thanks to its talented cast, script, and Barris' direction. I can see where the mixed reviews came from regarding its humor and the fact that it's more romance than comedy. However, I also couldn't help but appreciate what Barris was trying to accomplish, even though the result was far from Oscar-worthy. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but it does make me reflect on what needs to be done to prevent more tension in interracial relationships.