You People takes audiences through not one but two story formulas – the fish-out-of-water culture clash that could occur between two separate parties, and the road towards a wedding. While this could be seen as a crutch for the filmmakers, this whip-smart comedy becomes the exception. Much like how Hustle exhibited last year, You People reminds us that routine storytelling can be forgiven if the film excels in other areas. You People is funny – very, very, very funny – so we don’t mind the familiarity.
You People begins when a romantic connection between podcaster Ezra (Jonah Hill) and costume designer Amira (Lauren London), evolves into a potential marriage, but then challenges these characters when they bring their parents into each other’s lives. Amira’s parents (Eddie Murphy, Nia Long) can’t get a clear reading on Ezra, and the sincerity from Ezra’s parents (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Duchovny) never feels genuine. When all four parents get together, the miscommunication only creates more tension; especially when race and religion are pulled into the equation resulting in more befuddlement. As the “big day” approaches, the relationship between Ezra and Amira’s father Akbar becomes more confrontational and edgy; leading to a psychological game of “chicken” as Akbar’s presence increasingly intimidates Ezra.
While some may compare these comedic set-ups and dynamics to Meet the Parents, Guess Who or Peeples, the screenplay (written by Hill and Black-ish creator Kenya Barris) packs quick-witted dialogue along with identifiable material and relatable reactions. Along with the strong writing that’s always in-tune, the actors all work together extremely well. No one is fighting for top billing (something Murphy has been guilty of in the past), and all of the diverse character work is miraculously working on the same frequency. When Ezra and Akbar are experiencing their own conflict, the exchanges are played in ways that are understandable. The concerns and emotions from both of these very different characters are valid. When they finally erupt during a private discussion, the truth in their dialogue and performances are scathingly real, which is also a compliment towards Barris’ direction.
The convenient, round-edged resolutions and personal realizations in the third act suggest that You People knows it painted itself into a corner after heart-to-hearts and a heartbreaking dispute between Ezra and Amira. You can almost hear the filmmakers panicking to create a “happy ending” to wrap everything up nicely. But considering how hard I was laughing prior to that cookie-cutter ending, yet again, I can forgive You People.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie
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