- Hans Weber
- June 5, 2023
‘You People’ movie review: Netflix culture clash comedy comes from the heart
An interracial couple struggles to connect with each other’s families in You People, a heartfelt new romantic comedy now streaming on Netflix. Thanks to a genuine-feeling presentation from Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and winning performances from Jonah Hill and Lauren London, this one is far better than its mixed reception would indicate.
Hill gives one of his most empathetic performances to date as Ezra Cohen, a L.A. jew who hosts a podcast about “the culture” with best friend Mo (Sam Jay). London is Amira Mohammed, a Black Muslim who lives in Baldwin Hills and works as a costume designer. They share a meet-cute when Ezra accidentally mistakes Amira’s car for his Uber, and soon they hit it off.
When things get serious, however, they also get problematic: the different backgrounds these characters come from make a long-term relationship seem untenable. Amira meets Ezra’s parents Arnold (David Duchovny) and Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who seem well-intentioned on the surface but come off as condescending.
Ezra, meanwhile, has his hands full with Amira’s parents Fatima (Nia Long) and Akbar (Eddie Murphy); Akbar, in particular, seems to do everything he can to sabotage his daughter’s relationship, a la Robert De Niro’s character in Meet the Parents. The notion of his character being an ardent follower of Louis Farrakhan is a bizarre choice that the film deftly sidesteps in the same way one might in a real-world scenario.
You People is at its best when it focuses on the relationship between Ezra and Amira, two fully-realized characters who we really root for. For 90 percent of the film, the ups-and-downs of their journey feel genuine, and director Barris (who co-wrote the script with Hill) approaches the racial aspects of the story with a frankness that feels honest and real.
Only at the very end does an artificial Hollywood touch make an appearance, in an effort to introduce manufactured drama to add some serious stakes to the climax.
Both Hill and London excel in the leads, though the excellent supporting cast is often reduced to two-dimensional stereotypes. Louis-Dreyfuss, in particular, exudes too much intelligence to be convincing as an airheaded Karen ripping the wigs off Black women, while Duchovny fades into the background with a one-joke characterization (he’s a big Xzibit fan).
To go along with the L.A. setting, You People feature familiar faces in the smallest of roles: Elliot Gould, Richard Benjamin, and Rhea Perlman show up as members of the Cohen’s extended family, while familiar faces like Anthony Anderson, Rob Huebel, and Matt Walsh appear in one-scene cameos. Mike Epps briefly shows up as Akbar’s brother, and finally humanizes the character by poking at his austere persona.
Director Barris and cinematographer Mark Doering-Powell display strong control of the visual palette in You People, showcasing a vision of Los Angeles that we normally don’t get to see thanks to some offbeat locations and impressive drone photography. Costumes are also a standout, with Hill’s streetwear an unusual and appealing choice for a leading man.
There’s a well-worn authenticity to You People that makes it more appealing than the Hollywood update of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner it might initially come off as. Aside from some narrative missteps at the very end, this one is a winner.
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