'You People' review: You'll enjoy meeting these parents
THE MOVIE "You People"
WHERE Streaming on Netflix.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT An ensemble of A-list heavyweights stars in "You People," a present-day riff on "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," in which Ezra Cohen (Jonah Hill) and his fiancee Amira Mohammed (Lauren London) awkwardly meet both sets of parents.
These parents are quite a formidable group: On the Cohen side, mom Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) seems to specialize in microaggressions, while dad Arnold (David Duchovny) tries to bond with his Black future daughter-in-law by spending a lot of time talking about his love for the rap star Xzibit.
Amira's dad, Akbar, is played by Eddie Murphy and he's got less than zero interest in getting to know his future son-in-law. Her mom, Fatima (Nia Long), seems more outwardly sympathetic, but has a way of conveying what she really thinks through a cutting stare.
The director is Kenya Barris, the creator of "black-ish," from a screenplay he co-wrote with Hill.
MY SAY The makers of "You People" craft a culture clash comedy that's as thoughtful and well-considered as imaginable. This isn't "Meet the Parents," with its heightened comic take on a similar premise, and it avoids the caricaturing that might have once shaped a Hollywood telling of this story.
The real essence of why it works so well has less to do with the way it examines the cross-cultural dynamics than with how it evokes the reality that the blending of families through marriage can have some seriously uncomfortable moments, no matter the situation.
Even during some of the more nightmarish scenes in "You People," such as a joint family dinner that devolves into a tense debate on divisive topics, none of these characters behave outrageously.
The picture derives its humor from anxiety-generating social situations while generating its pathos from the empathy with which it regards the people experiencing them.
It's as easy to understand why Akbar might have trouble coming to terms with his daughter bringing home a partner who is much different than he'd have envisioned as it is to acknowledge that Shelly might mean well, while being clueless about how to appropriately interact with someone from a different background.
The actors add wisdom to the characters: Murphy brings a comic edge to Akbar without sacrificing the raw emotions that come with having to give your daughter away. Louis-Dreyfus masters the art of well-intentioned idiocy.
Hill and London have sweet moments together, defined by the wonderful feeling of meeting that person who will keep your loneliness at bay, and increasingly hampered by the realization that their parents might really screw this up.
Sometimes, "You People" pursues tidy romantic comedy beats that seem to be a little too smooth, a little too easy, for a movie that's fundamentally about very human messiness. Given that it focuses on the destructive flaws inherent in everyone, even those who love us the most, you wish it'd have gone a little bit further.
But it's funny, observant and most importantly, a work of genuine compassion.
BOTTOM LINE Here's a recipe for success: great actors, including Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, plus an affecting story and lots of droll, awkward comedy.