‘You People’ Should Have Picked a Lane

You People, a 2023 Romantic Comedy from Netflix starring Eddie Murphy, Lauren London, and Jonah Hill, tells the story of an interracial couple grappling with the culture clashes of their white Jewish and black Muslim families.  Will these differences drag them apart, or will true love win the day?

Full disclosure:   Romantic comedies are among my least favorite genre.   I can’t help it.  I’m dead on the inside. 

The movie certainly has an impressive, talented, and charming cast.  Everyone is a joy to watch and seeing someone like David Duchovney play an uncool dad was a lot of fun.  David Duchovney should really be in more comedies.  He has a knack for it.

The problem that I have with this movie is that it wants to be a brainless comedy while taking a serious look into deep seeded cultural differences.  This movie is a conjoined twin continually punching itself in the face.  Just when you get into the comedy, the drama drags you down and just when you get a meaty, dramatic scene with no easy answers where no one is right, it’s ended with slapstick  At the risk of sounding completely cliché, this is a movie wanted to have its cake and eat it too… which is a saying that I don’t understand, because if you have a cake, you can naturally eat it, but if you don’t have it, how can you eat it?  That makes no sense.

Case in point: There is a very tense and well written dinner scene in which Eddie Murphy’s Muslim family get into a very awkward disagreement with Julia Louise Dryfus’ Jewish family.  When this scene got going, I was really into it because both sides were right, and both side were wrong.  There was no easy out, there was going to be no mutual understanding, and you really got a sense of the deep-seeded divide that was in the way of Hill and London becoming a married couple and then, they just end the scene with someone setting Eddie Murphy’s kufi on fire and devolving the exchange into slapstick which was… disappointing to say the least.

To me, that is the thing about You People that turned me off the film and that was that the movie wouldn’t pick a lane.  It wouldn’t commit to being a comedy and wouldn’t commit to being a drama and, in the end, it just seems like a rambling mess going nowhere.

I do love Eddie Murphy and I really wish that we had more Eddie Murphy in things because even when he’s in bad things, Eddie Murphy is still funny… unless that bad thing is Norbit.  Here, Eddie Murphy is subdued and deadpan which works for him, but his character is written with almost no redeemable features.  He is purposefully the worst person in the room no matter which room he’s in and, by the time the movie tries to soften his image, it’s too little too late.  It’s hard to be on his side.

I find that incredibly disappointing because Julia Louise Dryfus’ character has similar failings, but her character is more layered and you understand her motivations.  It comes from a place of virtuous progressiveness and insecurity that manifests with microagressions.  

Murphy, on the other hand, is just a jackass and that’s it.  His entire personality revolves around making his future son in law uncomfortable and putting words in other people’s mouths to start arguments.  It gets tiresome.

The same can be said of Johan Hill who once again returns to his favorite character, the awkward, mumbling guy who fumbles over little white lies to get into the good graces of whomever he happens to be in the room with.  Hill’s shtick way past its expiration date by this point 

For You People to work, we as an audience have to accept Lauren London and Jonah Hill as a couple and, although we eventually do, the movie doesn’t help matters.  Much of their relationship evolves off camera thanks to sweet montages and a title card that says “Six Months Later.”   Now, Hill and London have enough chemistry between them so that I could buy that they were a couple and were in love, but You People really didn’t do them any favors.

I suppose that’s another breaking leg to this movie is that it just looks cheap and I mean television level cheap with flat settings, uninspired direction, and transitions that look straight out of Home Improvement or That 70’s Show.  

For a film that sought to take on and talk frankly about cultural differences, I am both shocked and disappointed that You People had so little of substance to actually say.   The cast was a lot of fun to watch, but I really think that was more due to the cast itself and less to the writing which more frequently than not, let the production and the actors down with its unwillingness to commit to the difficult dilemma that it sought to take on.

I wouldn’t really call You People a bad movie, but it’s not good either.  It’s a middling effort to be charitable that could have, quite frankly, pushed whatever envelope it was trying to push a little harder and gone to grayer areas than it was willing to go.  Either that or just admit it was trying to be a straight up comedy and go for maximum laughs.  The trouble is, it doesn’t really do either and ends up an unsatisfying non-event with easy solutions found by copping out.

The result is a movie that is less Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and more Guess Who?

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