Wake up and smell the sensitivity.
Ezra (Jonah Hill), a jewish man, meets and woos a black girl, Amira (Lauren London), to the horror of her strict muslim father, and to the delight of his ingratiating parents. And we’re stuck watching the same tired romcom, rebooted for gen-z.
I don’t know why I thought YOU PEOPLE would be anything more than your average uncomfortable tale of boyfriend-meets-girlfriend’s-parents. I think maybe it was the fact that Eddie Murphy was starring alongside Jonah Hill (both those guys known for taking comedy out to the edge), or maybe it was the first Act that seemed almost Larry-David-like in its overlapping dialogue and quick chaotic zingers, or maybe just the flashy production on the bumpers separating the scenes (which eventually become distracting because they turn out to be the coolest thing in the movie). Be that as it may, I can safely say YOU PEOPLE is not your average uncomfortable tale of boyfriend-meets-girlfriend’s-parents. Oh, it’s much worse. Because it uses the same old tropes (“My parents are crazy” “My parents are religious,” etc.), and adds the spice of woke.
Co-written by Jonah Hill and Kenya Barris, and directed by Barris, movie tries to be so fresh, so hep, so unscripted, so podcast-generation, yet soon after the Meet Cute (when Ezra accidentally steps into Amira’s car, thinking she is his Uber driver), there is zero new ground covered, and YOU PEOPLE quickly abandons any “newness” it was trying to achieve. Except for those tasty bumpers.
These kinds of plots – where the young couple spend time with their older parents to “get to know them” – used to be called fish-out-of-water comedies (displacing a person from their comfort zone, attempting integration into a wholly alien community/lifestyle). Nowadays it’s aiming for woke. Where the displaced person attempts to empathize rather than blandly fit in; where the displaced person is required to provide evidence of empathy, not just to the film characters, but to the viewing audience as well, and goes to outlandish lengths to provide it. Woke woke woke. Stupid fucking word. Everyone trying to simply prove they are “aware” (a more descriptive word for what they are trying to achieve), yet going beyond aware to obsequious (for the overly-sensitive and easily offended, most people not realizing that the term itself is a veiled insult, not a desired condition.
YOU PEOPLE is strictly for Karens and Chads…
Eddie Murphy is Akbar, Amira’s father, whose muslim and black ethos Ezra panders to, for the endgame of marrying Amira. Meanwhile, Ezra’s mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) ingratiates herself with Amira, trying to prove she is sensitive to the struggle. In the middle background, Nia Long is Akbar’s wife, and David Duchovny is given the funniest/cringe lines as Ezra’s jewish dad trying too hard to talk street; he’s that type, “I woulda voted for Obama for a third term.” Ezra’s sister is gay, and extremely vocal about environmentalism… Ezra’s podcast partner (Sam Jay) is of non-discernible gender (– which non-fluid-trans are they tryna attract exactly, looking like neither sex?)…
Murphy and Louis-Dreyfus do bring some steam to their roles, annoying though those roles are. Y’know, Eddie should probably explore doing more laidback straight man like this, as he sits well as a comedic force in this vehicle that he is not required to drive; in a role like this, he can break out a l’il mimicry, a l’il mockery, a l’il o’ that ‘zazz that took him to the top of the comedy world, and there’s no pressure to follow through with outrageous punchlines verbally or physically, thereby making what he brings to this tepid film all the more valuable in small snatches. He’s got loads to spare, and we can feel it pulsing offa him at times… but the script lets him down ultimately, and his character just homogenizes into the saccharine ending. As does Louis-Dreyfus.
And early on, when our lead actress says, “I don’t really feel seen by you…” we start to hear all the telltale woke dialogue from that point, as when Ezra offers Amira financial help after not landing a job, and she shrikes at him: “Are you not hearing me?” And what we are meant to “hear” is not just the context of this argument, no, we are meant to hear the wider context of her being an empowered woman who needs to be heard by a man on an equal level, and not given aid summarily due to her “weaker” gender. And if you think I’m reading too deeply into this romcom… you’re not woke enough. And I’ll probably be cancelled in 20 years for calling her an “actress”– Jesus! The torture never stops with you people!…