'You people' review: No laughs to give
To the film’s credit, it attempts to impress during the emotional moments between the lead couple, particularly those that explore gender as well as religious dynamics.
Published: 05th February 2023 05:00 AM | Last Updated: 03rd February 2023 04:19 PM | A+A A-
Meeting the folks of one’s significant other has long been mined for its humourous setting, be it in a sitcom like Friends or a film like Meet the Parents. You People, revolving around a Jewish man (Jonah Hill) falling in love with a Muslim African-American woman (Lauren London), recontextualises the tried-and-tested trope to reflect the complexities of a modern relationship with the timely backdrop of a multiplicity of identities.
On paper, a romcom bringing together veterans such as Hill and Eddie Murphy (who plays London’s brother) seems like a good idea, but the film struggles to live up to the expectations right from the word go. The opening segments work just fine, but only on account of nostalgia and not originality. The moment it attempts to juggle between commentary on cultural differences and relationship drama, the film falters, with the plot and the comedy running all over the place.
Mind you, lack of sensitivity is not an issue here. Filmmaker Kenya Barris, who himself is black, approaches the identity theme with visible caution, even if audiences unfamiliar with the peculiarities of black and Jewish communities might not be able to relate to them. The problem, however, is the story’s sheer inability to evoke laughs. The intention perhaps was to draw awkward situational humour out of the uncomfortable familial settings, but all one is left with is an awkward listlessness.
While Hill, otherwise known for his quirky, high-on-energy roles in Judd Apatow’s comedies, opts for a stoic and mature performance, Murphy seems largely indifferent to the happenings around him, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfield and Veep fame, struggles to add anything to the plot as a bumbling, racially tone-deaf mother.
To the film’s credit, it attempts to impress during the emotional moments between the lead couple, particularly those that explore gender as well as religious dynamics. London’s performance as Amira wonderfully complements Hill’s financier-turned-podcaster Ezra. It is during their genuine moments of chemistry that the film picks up pace, despite its unusually muted energy levels.
Towards the end, You People raises some pertinent questions about generational differences, cultural clashes, political affiliations, and how all of it affects a relationship, but right when it reaches a crescendo, it fizzles out and lazily wraps up the drama with a formulaic and abrupt ending.