The new film from Black-ish creator Kenya Barris & comedy star Jonah Hill, You People, is now streaming, but should you give it a watch?
- “A family man struggles to gain a sense of cultural identity while raising his kids in a predominantly white, upper-middle-class neighborhood in Los Angeles”
- “Based in Los Angeles, A father takes an irreverent and honest approach to parenting and relationships.”
- “In the backdrop of modern-day Los Angeles, the story follows a new couple and their families, who examine modern love and family dynamics amidst clashing cultures, societal expectations, and generational differences.”
Shoot a dart at a Kenya Barris project, and you will probably land on the same key elements every time. While this does not make him a bad writer or unsuccessful, in fact, quite the contrary, it does make him seem repetitive and singularly focused.
So when Barris was set to make his film directorial debut for Netflix, many thought or hoped his latest creation would be an evolution of his past work and show that he can do more with a different medium.
You People is not that.
The film is exactly what we have been accustomed to with Barris’ work. If #BlackAF was Black-ish mixed with The Office, then You People is Black-ish mixed with co-writer Jonah Hill’s Jewish-American experience.
With a plot line such as this one (it’s the 3rd one of the three listed above), any cinephile is going to make comparisons to the 1967 Stanley Kramer film Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner starring screen legend Sidney Poitier or its 2005 rom-com “update” Guess Who with Bernie Mac & Ashton Kutcher and the film very much deserves it.
Playing the overbearing & inflexible father is the perfectly casted Eddie Murphy, who takes his temperament & stubbornness from 1967’s Spencer Tracy but put into many of the similar situations of Bernie Mac’s comedic approach. Check the tape on 2005’s Guess Who scene in the car listening to “Ebony & Ivory” versus the scene in You People where they listen to Jay-Z & Kanye’s “N****s in Paris”.
Much like comparing Barris’ previous works to this one, comparing past culture-clashing relationship stories to this one doesn’t make the film bad or uninteresting. Still, it can feel rather repetitive & less impactful.
The casting choices are probably the best part of this film as we get an SNL reunion with Murphy & co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, Veep), who plays Jonah Hill’s neurotic, overcompensating, & purposefully cringy mother.
The film also stars: Nia Long (Friday), David Duchovny (X-Files), Mike Epps (Dolemite Is My Name), Rhea Perlman (Cheers), Elliott Gould (Ocean’s Eleven), & Deon Cole (Black-Ish).
The best performances, scenes, & general chemistry belong to Jonah Hill, his brilliant co-stars Lauren London (who plays his fiancé Amira) & Sam Jay (his podcasting partner Mo).
Hill & London are an incredibly convincing couple with charm, comfort, & rational disagreements that elevate the film’s core message.
While podcasting usually gets pummeled in film portrayals, I enjoyed Hill & Sam Jay’s on and off-mic conversations, including the repeated cultural discussion of post-slavery relations between Black & White Americans as “the cheater and the cheated on” with the level of mistrust that will be hard to overcome.
Overall, the mileage one gets out of the awkward humor & cultural ruminations that Barris is known for will probably measure how much you engage & enjoy this film. As for me, I thought the film had some standout scenes & performances, but ultimately felt too familiar to stand out amongst its influences and Barris’ previous projects.
Watch You People If You Like
- Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner
- Guess Who
MVP of Netflix’s You People
Jonah Hill as Ezra.
Maybe because he co-wrote the film, but it seemed like the film’s humor is largely derived from Hill’s performance. His comedy style breaks up the stitched-together philosophical text that persists throughout. Hill again showed that he can write & improv incredibly well while still going blow for blow with comedy legends like Eddie Murphy & Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
PLAY, PAUSE, OR STOP?
If you are a huge fan of Barris & Hill, you may be able to get something out of this familiar tale.