Modern love has come a long way since the days of "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," the 1967 romantic drama that dealt with interracial marriage at a time when it was still illegal in many states. Some 55 years later, love is love, but family is baggage. The coming together of two people doesn't just occur within a vacuum. Family traditions and societal pressure often creep into the romance when things get serious. Add in a dash of superficial expectations and a hint of generational differences, and you have the new Netflix comedy "You People."
In his feature film directorial debut, Kenya Barris ("black-ish") brings to life a story of conviction and love when two people meet and reckon with differing cultures en route to happily ever after. Co-written by Barris and star Jonah Hill, "You People" is an examination of the many clashes we often witness in society, especially when two families of varying backgrounds must find commonality in order to support a union between their two adult children.
"You People" stars Jonah Hill as Ezra Cohen, a tattoo-laced finance bro who co-hosts a podcast about racial disparity and heritage. Equipped with a charming personality, he accidentally meets Amira Mohammed (Lauren London) when he mistakes her for his uber driver. Hilarity ensues, naturally, but the two can't escape the connection they have. They fall in love and decide to meet one another's parents.
Like so many movies of similar premises before it, shit hits the fan.
Coming from a white Jewish background, Ezra introduces his parents (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny) to Amira. Without missing a beat, their awkward conversations slightly offend Amira, despite their well-meaning approach to showing how liberal and free they can be. Things don't go much better with Amira's parents (Eddie Murphy and Nia Long), Louis Farrakhan-loving Muslims who marvel at how desperate Ezra seems to gain their attention and approval. At the heart of the misfires comes the prolonged conversation between the Jewish experience and the Black experience, which both sets of parents communicate and fight about at great length.
Privilege, working hard, modern relationship roles and comedic timing are all on full display in "You People," mixed with a bit of heart.
Barris and Hill's script is tedious but light-hearted enough to get their points across. If not for the stellar acting work from Murphy and Louis-Dreyfus's natural talents in their comedy element, this movie might not work. But the ensemble cast is not to be believed, complete with cameos from Anthony Anderson, Elliott Gould, Deon Cole, Andrea Savage, and Rhea Perlman. There is strong work from Sam Jay, who plays Ezra's podcast partner in crime, a black woman who level-sets her friend when he is troubled by all the differences in their families that seemingly pull Ezra and Amira apart.
"You People" has a lot going for it and is one of the funnier movies that Netflix has in its current catalog of new content. It also feels genuine, with the Los Angeles background making for a different take on a city mostly stereotyped for glitz and glamor. But Barris uses strange transitions and quick cutaways that make this film chaotic, and the drawn-out discussions of culture clashes tend to get old after a while.
This is a bit of a "Romeo & Juliet" type of film for the modern age, striving to be "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" without entirely sticking the landing. It's a valiant effort from two writers with vastly different backgrounds coming together to tell a story worth noting. There are so many witty sequences that the overall experience of watching "You People" is enjoyable.
Even if Ezra and Amira can overcome their families' traditions and differences, it's still a long road for these two in the future. But Kenya Barris paints a picture worth celebrating, even if he has to overcome some bumps in that aforementioned road as a director.
Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟🎟1/2