Movies, Arts

‘You People’ Offers a Fresh Take on Rom-Coms and Generational Differences

Ezra Cohen (Jonah Hill) and Amira Mohammed (Lauren London) are stereotypical, slightly lost millennials. Still single in their thirties, with their parents reminding them at every opportunity that their biological clocks are ticking, the pair feel resigned to a life of unfulfilling romantic connections. Until, of course, they meet each other.

You People, released to Netflix on Jan. 27, packs the traditional romantic comedy slow-burn love story into the first minutes of the film. It fast forwards through Ezra and Amira’s early relationship, giving viewers a montage of intimate moments and cutesy quips made between the two. 

Confined to their own world, Ezra and Amira click perfectly. You People co-writers Jonah Hill and Kenya Barris capture the feeling of connecting with a person who just understands you. Ezra and Amira have endless and aimless conversations about everything, from hip-hop to designer sneakers to religion. It is when these topics—and their relationship more generally—are introduced to their families that things start to go wrong.

Hill’s awkward but endearing comedy and Kenya Barris’ sitcom writing experience are evident in the film and lighten the overall mood of heavier scenes, many of which touch on the culture clash between the two families.

The first time Ezra brings Amira home, his parents Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Arnold (David Duchovny) launch into a painful conversation about Magic Johnson and police brutality in a twisted attempt to relate to her as a Black woman. Ezra’s sister is mortified and tells her father to please “stop producing sound.”

Many of the film’s pivotal conversations between the two families feel like this. Anyone who has experienced the adults in their lives attempting to be woke, but failing and landing on the offensive side instead, will feel right at home. You People is a rom-com about Ezra and Amira, but the real focus is on their parents’ relationship, not their own.

Eddie Murphy does a particularly powerful job portraying Amira’s overprotective father Akbar. In an attempt to connect with Amira’s parents, Ezra brings them out to a restaurant in their own predominantly Black neighborhood and rambles about his love for Langston Hughes, which in reality is nonexistent. Murphy stares him down in a way that only a girlfriend’s dad can, prompting him to apologize and publicly declare his love for Amira.

While the film’s characters and their conversations deal with modern misgivings about race and religion well, the attempt to have the families truly resolve their cultural differences falls short. 

In one scene, Akbar and Shelley debate whether the couple should have a Jewish rabbi or a Muslim imam officiate their wedding. While the jabs at each other’s cultures are mostly lighthearted, they sometimes reveal genuine prejudices that the film only half heartedly addresses.

During lighter moments, the film succeeds at proving love can overcome cultural differences. During one ill-fated dinner party with their parents, Ezra and Amira laugh away the disagreements that come up and mouth apologetically across the table at each other. Hill and London’s chemistry overpowers the tension between the adults.

At times,You People lacks the depth needed to convince the viewer that the families’ efforts at support are more than surface level. In scenes where the characters aren’t making jokes about their own cultures, the more serious dialogue feels shallow. 

It is easy to look past this for most of the film because a catchy hip-hop soundtrack compliments its fast pace and modern setting. Many movies’ attempts at millennial humor stay away from heavier topics and end up feeling forced or cliched, but viewers are invited to laugh at the parents’ dinner conversation comparing stereotypes about Jewish and Black people. Amira’s mother wrinkles her nose at Shelley’s Shabbat candles, asking her to blow them out due to “allergies” as Ezra and Amira roll their eyes across the table at each other.

You People brings just enough dark humor and pop culture references to a classic love story to keep it fresh for viewers. Despite a shaky attempt to tie up loose ends and resolve the characters’ conflicts, Jonah Hill and Lauren London make Ezra and Amira’s story endearing. Taking on a relationship could mean opening one’s world up to not just one new person, but a whole family of them—every loud uncle, slightly offensive cousin, and meddling mother. 

January 29, 2023