When I first saw the trailer for Kenya Barris’ new film “You People,” I was excited because the film starred some of my favorite comedy actors, Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jonah Hill. The film follows a budding romantic relationship between Ezra (Hill) — a white Jewish man — and Amira (Lauren London) — a Black, Muslim woman — and all the things that come with a new relationship, including messy family dynamics. While the film attempts to both be funny and make a social commentary, it falls short on both accounts, resulting in a mediocre Netflix movie.
After a chaotic accidental meeting, Ezra and Amira begin to hang out and discover that they do have a lot in common even though they come from completely different backgrounds. Despite their differences, the pair fall in love and eventually decide to move in together and get married. In the planning of the wedding, the audience meets the pair’s overprotective parents: Amira’s dad Akbar (Murphy) and Ezra’s mom Shelley (Louis-Dreyfus), who steal the show. Shelley’s desire to be seen as a liberal and hip mom despite the fact that she is constantly committing microaggressions and Akbar’s disapproval of Ezra only muddy the relationship between the pair. From the first meeting between the families, tensions are high. The parents quickly get into a heated argument, which is only worsened when Shelley accidentally sets Akbar’s kufi on fire and then knocks it off his head to stomp it out.
The movie is full of cringeworthy scenes of attempted humor that are hard to watch at times. In one of these scenes, an uninvited Akbar goes to Ezra’s bachelor party in Las Vegas. The bachelor party is full of normal bachelor party obscenities like strippers and cocaine, none of which Ezra takes part in due to Akbar’s watchful eye. As the viewer, I felt second-hand embarrassment for both Ezra and Akbar. Rather than being funny, the scene was uncomfortable and only added to my confusion of what the movie was about. I was looking forward to this film because it appeared to be a modern-day romantic comedy. Unfortunately, the movie fell short. First, it couldn’t decide whether or not it wanted to be a romantic comedy or social commentary, which resulted in neither aspect being done well. Noah Berlatsky, a critic from The Chicago Reader wrote, “The film is much more interested in social embarrassment cringe and gags than it is in any sort of close examination of how racism affects interracial couples.’’ The film totally could have tackled these issues, but instead it chose to make jokes about them. It almost seems that it was trying to be a modern version of the 1967 film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” but the script falls short, mostly because it tries too hard to make a social commentary while also focusing on romance, which results in a movie that seems like the director was trying too hard to make a social change. The cast, especially Murphy and Louis-Dreyfus, did the best with what they were given; they all delivered their lines and played their roles as hilariously as they could with what they had to work with.
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