Watching You People, the latest big Hollywood “comedy” from Netflix, is another depressing reminder (and example) of the ongoing collapse of Hollywood.
Apparently, we can’t have comedies about people anymore. Everything has to be political. The human experience and the human condition is no longer appropriate. The Message not only takes precedence, but the human experience is shoved aside to create one-dimensional Message Carriers instead of flesh-and-blood characters.
You People stars Jonah Hill (who co-scripted) as 35-year-old Ezra Cohen, a Wall Street broker and wannabe podcaster longing for love. He meets Amira (Lauren London) through an Uber mishap. Love blossoms.
She’s black, he’s Jewish, and what wants to be an updated version of the thoughtful (if somewhat overrated) Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? ends up being an exhausting, overlong, tedious, and breathtakingly phony Woke Lecture with less in common with the human experience than the cantina in Star Wars.
How’s this for a meet-cute…
Ezra orders an Uber. He exits his Los Angeles office building and accidentally steps into Amira’s car. What follows goes something like this.
Oh, you see a black woman in a cheap car and just assume she’s your Uber driver because we all look alike, you white racist!
First off, is a sleek, red Mini Cooper a “cheap car?” According to Google, a Mini Cooper costs anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000, and Amira’s Mini Cooper looked far from used.
Anyway, what exactly is attractive about a woman who’s a chip-on-the-shoulder-talking-point-I’m-an-oppressed-victim machine?
So love blossoms, and Amira’s Islamic parents — Fatima (a wasted Nia Long) and Akbar (Eddie Murphy, the only one who understands he’s in a terrible movie) — meet Ezra’s left-wing Jewish parents — Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who should’ve known better) and Arnold (David Duchovny, who thinks he’s in a different movie).
Oh, and of course, Ezra’s sister is gay because, of course.
Comedy only works if you stretch reality. But reality is the key. If the audience doesn’t believe the characters are real, they won’t laugh. Why? Because truth is funny, fake is not.
Nobody, and I mean nobody in You People, is anywhere near real. They inhabit this movie for only two purposes: 1) to fire off sitcom-level punchlines and 2) to deliver the Woke Message. Not only are these characters lacking an inner life or even the sense of an inner life, but you also cannot picture them living any kind of life when the camera is not on them. They are like those Westworld robots who only power on when it’s time to perform.
One thing I will say is that You People allows Eddie Murphy to again prove his genius. By playing his character straight, he earns almost all of the very few laughs in the way-overlong 118-minute runtime. Murphy holds tight to his dignity. The others, not so much.
Ezra shows up for his first date with Amira wearing a tie-dyed sweatsuit. This is how desperate the movie is for laughs. He’s a grown man, a business professional. It’s not funny because it’s fake.
Akbar invites himself along to Ezra’s bachelor party. Somehow the father-in-law found out which flight his future son-in-law is on and the hotel he’s staying at. Oh, and even though his future father-in-law is present, Ezra imbibes in coke and strippers. Fake, fake, fake.
Fake: Ezra afraid to quit his job.
Fake: the supposedly spontaneous podcasting scenes.
Fake: Amira doesn’t get a job because she graduated from Howard instead of Harvard.
Fake: The laughably quick way the third act crisis is resolved.
Fake: Ezra and his family having a glib debate in the middle of a crowded Jewish ceremony.
The worst is Julia Louis-Dreyfus. We’re supposed to believe a 60-something woman can’t read a room or intuit how uncomfortable she’s making Amira with her condescending racism. Instead, it’s just one tired and exhaustingly fake scene after another of the clueless and racist Shelley trying to prove to Amira she’s not racist.
The fakest thing of all, though, is that we’re supposed to believe Ezra’s horrified by his mom’s condescending behavior towards Amira even as he turns around and behaves the exact same way with Akbar — telling one tediously dumb lie after another about how much his knowledge of black culture and how important it is in his life.
No one behaves this way.
No one is this hung up on race.
I’ve been in an interracial relationship/marriage since the mid-80s. None of this stuff has ever happened to us. Nothing close. We’ve effortlessly — and without giving it much thought — merged our traditions and cultures. My wife loves my family, and they love her. I love my wife’s family, and they love me. Why? Because we’re people. We’re human beings. We’re not hung up on things that don’t matter. As fellow Americans, we share so much more in common than not. That’s what we’ve built our family and extended family on, as opposed to the narcissistic terrorism of small differences.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been watching older comedies: Caddyshack (1980), Night Shift (1982), Back to School (1986), Easy Money (1983), Splash (1984)… And the thing I’ve been most struck by is how apolitical they are. At the time, we took this for granted. But now, it seems revolutionary.
That’s not to say these movies are about nothing. Quite the opposite. They all traffic in universal themes: freedom, snobbery, class differences, fitting in, unrequited love, fear of failure, finding your place in the world… But the comedy and the heart come from believable characters everyone can identify with. The characters might be broad and exaggerated, but we can relate to their desires and struggles.
That doesn’t mean a movie can’t be political. For example, last night, I watched The World According to Garp (1982), which is all about how sex, specifically a man’s need for it, negatively affects women. While I find that message ridiculous and shallow for a whole host of reasons, the movie works because the movie is about real people attempting to navigate a complicated world. Because Garp is really about learning to forgive and to accept people for who they are, the dumb sexual politics disappear beneath the humanity.
Who can relate to or empathize with You People’s Amira, who is always ready to be offended and eager to throw the color of your white skin in your face — who thinks driving a sleek, red mini Cooper is a symbol of her oppression?
How do you identify with someone as non-stop stupid as Shelley?
How do you relate to a movie where every white person has to be taught a lesson, including our protagonist Ezra?
Although I found Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery entertaining, it was equally forgettable, and for the same reason: Every Glass Onion character was a one-dimensional political avatar as opposed to a relatable, fully-formed human being.
Unfortunately, You People is how provincial, sheltered, smug, ignorant, and bubbled Hollywood sees the rest of us. They are so removed from reality that to them, You People is reality, even though Everyday Americans of all skin colors and cultures have been living together and blending their families and cultures without giving it much thought for a half-century already.
To say Hollywood has lost touch with its audience is an understatement. These people come from another planet, another universe, a shallow and silly place where people are blessed with everything but only happy when they feel offended and repressed. Wherever this place is, Mini Coopers are a sign of poverty.
You People is a dumb movie written by sheltered, spoiled, ignorant elitists creating “art” only to please their cult.
You People also deserves some sort of award for the worst waste of star cameos in the history of movies. Richard Benjamin, Anthony Anderson, Hal Linden, Elliott Gould… You have to be pretty untalented to squander all that talent.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.