You People Review

You People
After an unlikely encounter leads to a blossoming romance, Ezra (Jonah Hill) and Amira (Lauren London) begin planning their wedding. But their families — especially Ezra’s awkward mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Amira’s strict father (Eddie Murphy) — could doom the relationship for good.

by John Nugent |
Published on
Release Date:

27 Jan 2023

Original Title:

You People

In 1967, Stanley Kramer’s groundbreaking Sidney Poitier-starring romantic comedy Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? introduced Hollywood audiences to the concept of interracial couples — and the awkward, racially-charged family get-togethers that come with them. It’s a concept given a fresh coat of 21st-century paint by Jonah Hill and Kenya Barris, who have collaborated on a script (Barris also directs, his debut) that brings together the witty big-screen comedy experience of Hill with the thoughtful, sharp perspective of Barris’s award-winning TV series black-ish.

Hill, an avowed hip-hop fan and LA kid, clearly puts a lot of himself into the character of Ezra, an aspiring podcaster who speaks in rap terminology (“I need a collaboration instead of a diss right now,” he implores to his best friend Mo, played by Sam Jay) and wears his Nike Jordans to synagogue. Hill’s training on Judd Apatow comedies serves him well here, lending himself a few solidly funny, self-deprecating ribbings (“You look like a young Hulk Hogan,” one character tells him).

Then along comes a meet-cute in the classic tradition: Ezra accidentally jumps into what he thinks is an Uber, but is actually the private car of Amira (Lauren London). Sparks fly after the initial mix-up, and soon the pair are inseparable. If the chemistry between Hill and London is not always totally convincing — Amira is not quite as well written as the male characters — they are both at least a very likeable company.

Murphy, in particular, is quietly brilliant, a terrifying, softly-spoken patriarch.

We then skip ahead to the happy couple’s impending nuptials, because this is where the meat of the piece comes: both Ezra and Amira are forced, reluctantly, to meet with their prospective in-laws, a prospect that has rarely been as unpleasant or as deeply, innately cringeworthy. On the one side of the new family, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny are brilliantly embarrassing as Ezra’s folks, a Jewish couple with seemingly no experience of interacting with Black people. Not since Bradley Whitford in Get Out wished he could have voted for a third Obama term has a white parent made such uncomfortable gestures to an interracial couple.

On the other side, we get Eddie Murphy and Nia Long as the take-no-bullshit Nation Of Islam couple, immediately suspicious of Ezra’s intentions. Murphy, in particular, is quietly brilliant, a terrifying, softly-spoken patriarch who will “kill you and get a solid nine hours’ sleep”, as Mo puts it. He makes his entrance to James Brown's ‘The Payback’, delivers hard stares from a polo neck, and — to the delight of any fans of his ‘80s stand-up specials — mocks white people with a high-pitched nasal impression.

The stage is set, then, for everything to go wrong, just in time for it to go right at the end. This is a romcom — glossily shot and overlit to boot — so it is almost deliberately formulaic, with a final act so neat it could have been manicured. But along the way Barris and Hill’s script finds some genuine insight into the racial divide of America, and why, despite significant strides, there is still a major barrier between the two cultures. “For Black people in this country, white people are the cheater,” explains Mo at one point, “and Black people are the girl who can’t move on.”

It hardly breaks the romcom mould, but You People is funny and thoughtful on how race can still divide a relationship. As the in-laws from hell, meanwhile, Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are the undeniable highlights.
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