You People follows the romance and struggles of an interracial couple whose families clash over cultural, generational, and religious differences. We begin with a brief introduction to our main characters where we learn that Ezra (Jonah Hill) is feeling pressure from his family to settle down as he navigates balancing between his passion of podcasting with his best friend, Mo (Sam Jay), with his day job as a broker. When Amira (Lauren London), a fashion designer who has just gotten out of a relationship, gets lost trying to find her way around the city with her GPS she meets Ezra. The ‘meet cute’ between these characters, vital to any rom com relationship, is the first example of cringe. In their first meeting, Ezra accidentally mistakes Amira to be his Uber driver, Amira calls him racist, and Ezra proceeds to justify his behavior by demonstrating how similar his Uber’s profile picture is to Amira. Ezra’s need to prove he is ‘not like other white guys’ makes watching this scene for the first time more cringy than funny. The real trouble this couple faces starts when they decide to get married and have to meet the parents.
Normally, I’m all for movies that are dubbed ‘woke’ because they reflect real world issues. Art as a reflection of reality should be able to address topics of importance, and in America that includes race relations. You People is a Netflix original movie that attempts comedic social commentary but ultimately comes off as cringy. While I like the message it is trying to send, it is portrayed with too little nuance demonstrated most effectively by the ending where earlier conflicts are dismissed as if they never existed. These issues with the movie were especially disheartening since I had such high hopes for its star studded cast, which include well-known comedians like Eddie Murphy, Jonah Hill, Sam Jay, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus to name a few.
The movie follows the interactions between Ezra’s white family and Amira’s black family as they try to come together for a wedding. What happens are problematic interactions in which white characters continually make long, monologue-like, offensive rants as if they can’t help what they’re saying while talking with black characters. Ezra’s mother, Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a prime example as her attempts to connect with Amira become a chance for her to pay lip service to how accepting she is of minorities by touting her daughter’s lesbian status like a badge, and her surface understanding of black culture. Meanwhile, black characters stare disapprovingly at white characters during their monologues and privately lament about the way white people just don’t understand. Amira’s father Akbar (Eddie Murphy) portrays his dislike for interracial relationships before he learns his daughter is in one, and once he does know subsequently tries to demonstrate how wrong Ezra is for Amira because he is white and not Muslim.
At the end of the movie Akbar and Shelley come together and set aside their differences to reunite their children. The apologies they offer Ezra and Amira are heartfelt and effective. The problem is Akbar and Shelley’s newfound ‘friendship’ was presented too quickly. For a movie almost two hours long, it was lazy to wrap everything up in the last 15 minutes. There is no true resolution, and the parents’ actions seem false and made in order to appease their children. These issues between families of different religions and cultures should be recognized, and I’m sure are lived experiences for many people. However, their dramatization and exaggeration were not successful in creating a comedic effect, and weren’t addressed properly in the ending.
I’m sure some people enjoyed watching this movie. In fact I’ve seen a few five star reviews that surprised me. For me, this movie tries to make too light of contemporary issues, although at its core I think it has a good message. It was the execution that left it lacking substance at the end. Overall, I think content like this isn’t bad to have out there. At the very least it creates conversations around the topics it is presenting, even if it is a bad movie. I don’t mind having a message imbedded in my entertainment, but I still expect it to be entertaining.
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