I'm not ___ist, I Love "You People"
Two blog posts in the same week? Whaaat?
It's a rarity in these parts, but you can thank Netflix's newest hit, You People, for the sudden boost in creative "juice." I've just finished my first watch of the movie, a modern take on Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? which premiered last week, and I must say that I am impressed by how well it was executed. Despite it's powerhouse cast, I was a bit leery when I first saw the trailer for this story about an interracial, interfaith couple trying to unify their parents ahead of their nuptials. My immediate thought was, How are y'all going to handle all of the -isms around a white Jewish man and Black woman introducing their parents in THIS social climate?
With Nia Long and a kufi-clad Eddie Murphy starring opposite a tone-deaf Julia-Louise Dreyfuss and Xzibit-obsessed David Duchovney, the devout parents of Lauren London and Jonah Hill's characters, it was clear that there was no avoiding any of the touchy intersections of love, race, and ethnic relations in America. The timing of this release is ironic, since 2022 ended with lots of commentary around the rift between Black and Jewish Americans. Now, here we are watching characters from both communities try to pursue marriage in the middle of parents who seemingly just don't understand. And let me assure you that nothing uncomfortable was off-limits.
Even with laughable one-liners, hilariously relatable scenes, and "That's right!" moments, the story is packed with undeniable portraits of today's America: white people who don't know what to say or how to act around Black folks, and diverse representations of Black people, including those who, despite making valid points informed by a consciousness of painful history and the depth of lived experiences, can still fall victim to their own bias. A quick exchange between Sam Jay and Murphy's characters even gives a nod to Black elders' confusion with gender identity and expression, showing how even the most "woke" Black folks still seem to have trouble grasping and finding comfort with those concepts. I cackled at the scene played by two of comedy's best, but it's sad to see those dynamics in real life. Last, and possibly most climactic, the movie calls out the difference in how people navigate certain spaces depending on their race, highlighting how Black people and those experiencing the world with a white skin and scope, live in two different Americas.
What I love most about the film is the constant push and pull of dualities: white vs. Black; expectation vs. reality; intent vs. impact; what is said vs. what is meant; and what is meant vs. what is heard or felt. It's a poignant story full of opposites that, thankfully, doesn't seek a kumbaya type of resolve, but instead showcases the reality that sometimes, you have to check your own bias and those expressed by the people around you, in order to live a fulfilling life. We are each responsible for our own learning and unlearning. You may not always understand or agree with others, but you still have to respect them. Own your wrongs, apologize for them, and strive to be better. Adopting these sentiments, as showcased by key characters in You People, is one way that we can start to move forward in society.
"...a story that is conscious, current, and cute."
Ultimately,You People is a good movie that I will watch again. Will it receive positive marks from other reviewers? Time will tell. Regardless, it was nice to see Lauren London's return to screen, set in her city, and made complete with sweet nods to her beloved Nipsey Hussle. No matter what the naysayers might think, I enjoyed the laughs from this story that is conscious, current, and cute.