REVIEW: You People (2023)

If you rated new romantic comedy You People based on boldness and ambition, it would almost certainly be one of the first great features of 2023. Ezra (Jonah Hill) and Amira (Lauren London) are two singles in Los Angeles who meet by accident, hit it off, and enter into a loving relationship. When Ezra decides to ask Amira to marry him, it means finally meeting one another’s parents. Ezra is a white Jew. Amira is a black Muslim. Their families (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Duchovny, Eddie Murphy, and Nia Long) do not get along.

You People, written by Hill and director Kenya Barris (black-ish), tackles race relations in America head-on. The jokes come in a scattershot fashion: some succeed, some fail, and some get actively uncomfortable to watch, but the boldness of the script’s approach is honestly laudable. When it works, it is excellent. When it doesn’t, more often that not it is because that laudable boldness evaporates. Its lowest moments are when it falls back to safe territory. Those parts are particularly frustrating, because the first act in particular presents itself as a smart satire than is not going to lose its nerve. Then, from time to time, it absolutely does.

With an uneven screenplay, it falls to the cast to sustain the film. Thankfully it is blessed with an outstanding ensemble. Jonah Hill, who consistently presents as one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors, shares a great chemistry with Lauren London. Between them they create a relationship that feels real, vibrant, and hugely charismatic. Ezra and Amira are a couple that one can genuinely like, and feel good about watching.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus provides a pitch-perfect representation of blind racism, which makes her both funny and painful to watch at the same time. I can go two ways with cringe-dominated comedy, and went back and forth on her character from scene to scene. Viewers who chafe badly against this kind of oh-so-awkward comedy may find her scenes more difficult to sit through. Eddie Murphy is in a more subdued mode than his fans are likely used to, and surprisingly unsympathetic. It’s a good performance, but it’s a hard character. Duchovny and Long are more pleasant to watch, but both feel a little under-served. Other members of the cast do decent work with small parts, including Sam Jay as Ezra’s podcasting partner Mo and Molly Gordon as his sister Liza.

Honestly the film gets less accomplished as it goes, leading to a climax that simply does not feel convincing when lined up with the events before it. It is almost a kiss of death for a comedy to fail to stick the landing. The entire purpose of the genre is to have a good time, and if that does not extend to the ending then it is the poor ending with which the audience is left. You People does a valiant job, and is honestly worth trying out for the cast and the better jokes. It the end, however, it is that ultimate of frustrations: something reasonably good that should be great.

2 thoughts on “REVIEW: You People (2023)

  1. I get that it wasn’t what people expected. But come on. It is a good, funny watch, informed with sensitivity and informed by complexity. It does a lot.. Furthermore, it’s a love that is very centered in LA with LA sights, LA landmarks, and LA culture. I love how the cinematography captures characters, light, and scenery. It’s FUN. It’s good. Come on now. Not everything is gonna be San Soleil.

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