You People (2023) Movie Review – Fine tuned cultural imprints make Netflix comedy funny but tedious

Fine tuned cultural imprints make Netflix comedy funny but tedious

Usually, political incorrectness proves to be an issue for modern-day comedies. There is so much nitpicking and deliberation on the jokes that it makes people fearful of what they say. Not You People, a spitting new comedy now streaming on Netflix.

There is no problem for Julia Dreyfus’ Miss Shelley or Eddie Murphy’s Akbar in casually letting out a racial slur or an offensive remark about Black or Jewish history. The larger problem with the comedy is not its humour. In fact, it has some of the best-done one-liners around the subject matter among its peers. They are frequent and consistent too. What makes You People special – its sense of finely tuned cultural nuance – is also what makes it tedious.

Ezra Cohen (Jonah Hill) is a 35-year-old Jewish stockbroker spinster with no promise in life. He does well to hide his Jewishness, probably not as well as Paul Rudd, by covering himself in tattoos, slick combed-back bleached hair, and a vibrant dressing sense. No one could call him Jewish with a passing eye, or even when they talk to him. His misunderstood dreams and philosophy about life and culture need a like-minded partner. Amira (Lauren London) drops into his life first as an Uber driver but then soon enough, becomes his only obsession.

As most marriages struggle with reconciling the family question, so does this one. Akbar (Murphy) cannot fathom her daughter marrying a white guy and Shelley (Dreyfus) cannot help but overcompensate in her liking for the bride-to-be.

It is a marriage of mismatches; two completely different cultures and lifestyles. The attempts at gaining approval on both sides form the basic tenet of You People. A modern-thinking Jewish family and a conservative Muslim-Black family are a deadly combination.

It is more than a decent premise and for most parts, director Kenya Barris’ vision and style hold up well. The impact wanes as the plot progresses, ultimately falling into the trap of genre conventions and ceasing any chance of redemption. Hindsight suggests that the structure of You People is more akin to a standup. But not in a good way. The randomness of jokes and lines of thought feels refreshing but one struggles to web them together. These differently matched phases make the storytelling disjointed and delirious. You People’s narration lacks seamlessness in how it changes gears from comedy to drama or even during the in-betweens.

It is not a slight on the quality of writing, which is fantastic in individual sequences. But when you join the threads together, the film is riddled with continuity pitfalls. Barris’ gives the impression of a serious-minded treatment of the subject matter but refrains from actually manifesting his exposition in dialogue. As soon as it is about to happen, the conversation just ends and we switch to another gimmick-like set piece taking the story in another direction. There is no ambition to extrapolate the situation of the characters to the larger picture of American society, which as a viewer would have made for a fascinating discussion.

One thing that does seem gainly is the brand of comedy. And You People is enough evidence to prove that the person delivering the material matters just as much. Dreyfus, Murphy, and Hill are delightful in realizing the awkwardness and political incorrectness that resembles contemporary discourse on racial relations on news shows and on the streets.

We have all become too careful about expressing our original thoughts that by the time the morphed ones are delivered from our mouths, they just feel fake and insincere. Even though we get some good laughs, the satire does rue the absence of brevity. It is not cutting edge and slumbers under the burden of obviousness.

Barris must take most of the blame for these shortcomings. You do leave the film with a sense that a potent opportunity was wasted and the talented cast was let down by some of these creative choices. The finely tuned cultural sensibilities of You People give it flavour, personality, and a much-desired vibrance but the handling of the themes and substance make the overall experience tedious and unsatisfactory.


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  • Verdict - 6.5/10

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