Sunday, February 05, 2023


Kenya Barris (BLACKISH) and Jonah Hill team up to write and then respectively direct and star in this new politically charged rom-com YOU PEOPLE.  Jonah Hill plays a Jewish broker called Ezra who feels lost in life and pressured to get married. He hates his office job and has an affinity for black hip-hop culture, which he expresses in a podcast with his best - black - friend Mo (Sam Jay).  He falls in love with a black girl called Amira (Lauren London) and it all goes swimmingly until they have to meet each other's respective parents.  

Ezra's parents (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and David Duchovny) are embarrassingly but unintentionally racist. Their racism is the kind that comes out of a lack of experience of inter-racial friendship, cultural ignorance, but an awkward desire to be woker-than-woke. It is no less demeaning to its target despite its lack of intentionality.   Amira's parents (Nia Long and a very subdued Eddie Murphy) are political activists inspired  by the deeply anti-semitic Louis Farrakhan, but after an early skirmish we never actually get into that.  Their racism seems intentional and well-considered, born of experience and ideology.  They simply do not trust or want their daughter in a non-black relationship.  

Things come to a head and then resolve in true rom-com style.  That is achieved through Ezra's mum apologising to Amira for her behaviour and - natch - on behalf of all Jewish people. Amira's dad apologises for his prejudiced behaviour toward Ezra, period. We never actually interrogate the anti-semitisim inherent in Farrakhan's teaching. Clearly there's an asymmetry here that David Baddiel has rightly called out, especially as it so clearly demonstrated in his superb and polemical essay Jews Don't Count

The thing is, I really agree with David Baddiel and I know I should mark this film down on account of it, but honestly, I just had a lot of fun with this film. It may be flawed but I think it made an earnest and honest attempt to deal with the reality of inter-racial dating in contemporary so-called liberal America. The conversations between Ezra and his friend Mo were fascinating, provocative and frankly entertaining. I would legit listen to that podcast if it existed. I believed in Jonah Hill's confused, frustrated and then touchingly sweet boyfriend. I believed in Amira's smart, strong, creative, supportive girlfriend. I rooted for them. And if the end was hokey, well that's just the genre, and if the apologies were imperfect, even that felt like a wish-fulfilment fantasy that wouldn't have happened IRL. So yeah, I really enjoyed YOU PEOPLE and I admired the relatively restrained deeply felt performance from Jonah Hill. More of this, please.

YOU PEOPLE has a running time of 117 minutes and is rated R. It is streaming on Netflix.

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