YOU PEOPLE (2023)
Starring Jonah Hill, Lauren London, Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Duchovny, Nia Long, Molly Gordon, Sam Jay, Travis Bennett, Mike Epps, Deon Cole, Rhea Perlman, Andrew Schulz, Andrea Savage, La La Anthony, Jordan Firstman, Bryan Greenberg, Matt Walsh, Minnie Holtzman, Elliott Gould, Richard Benjamin, Hal Linden and Anthony Anderson.
Screenplay by Jonah Hill & Kenya Barris.
Directed by Kenya Barris.
Distributed by Netflix. 118 minutes. Rated R.
There is something oddly old-fashioned about You People, even though it probably was meant to seem rather edgy. In 2023 it is not that unusual for people to fall in love with someone of a vastly different background, race and religion. Nor is it really all that necessary in the new millennium for a couple’s parents to be on board in order for a couple to consider marriage. Guys don’t need to ask the dad for permission to propose in the modern world.
This old-fashioned vibe in itself is not necessarily a bad thing – this is at heart a rom-com and doesn’t need to push the envelope completely to tell its story.
The diverse couple are Ezra, a thirty-ish Jewish guy who co-hosts a podcast taking a light-hearted and slightly edgy look at modern life and race, and Amira (Lauren London), an African American designer. The two meet exceedingly cute – he mistakes her for his Uber driver, and she thinks he’s a crazy carjacker – but somehow find a connection. Both have been disappointed by love and fall easily and naturally into a rhythm and then fall in love.
All good, right?
The complications start when the families enter the picture. Amira’s father Akbar (Eddie Murphy) is a devout Muslim and totally refuses to engage with Ezra, and mother Fatima (Nia Long) is only slightly more welcoming. On the other hand, Ezra’s mother Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is smothering in her openness to welcome Amira to the fold and prove her liberal bona fides, and Ezra’s dad Arnold (David Duchovny) comes clean about his obsession with Xzibit and Pimp My Ride.
And do you know what? In the first half of the film, You People actually has some of the bite it was seeking to portray, particularly in a hilariously awkward scene where the parents first meet and there is consternation about Minister Farrakhan and whether slavery and the Holocaust were equally horrific. Some of the conversations between Ezra and his best friend/podcast cohost Mo (Sam Jay) also have similar bite.
Then about a half-hour to 45 minutes in, the film downshifts and becomes as safe as milk. This section has little more to say about race relations than the 1967 granddaddy of the form, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?
Which is a shame because there is some fine humor and terrific acting on display. In the first half, Murphy does some of his finest work in years because he was willing to rein things in and play the straight man. (The second half of the film, his performance loses some of its tightness, but is still mostly worthy.) And Louis-Dreyfus is a treasure in just about anything, and her mocking of clueless liberal overreach is both smart and funny.
There is a clash of comic styles as well as cultures, which leads You People to feel a bit disjointed, but that’s probably the point. Co-written by star Jonah Hill and Blackish creator Kenya Barris, the film has some interesting twists and looks at many points of view. Plus, it brings together such great old pros as Elliott Gould, Mike Epps, Richard Benjamin, Deon Cole, Rhea Perlman, Kym Whitley and Hal Linden, which is always a plus, although honestly of that group only Epps really gets anything worthwhile to do onscreen.
But in the second half it all just evaporates. Everything just slams into cliched rom-com mode, and honestly, I didn’t buy the late romantic complication for a second, nor the eventual epiphany.
So, maybe You People is the perfect fare for Netflix. You can check out the first half and decide at your convenience when or if you want to finish it off.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2023 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 27, 2023.