Anescape,not a failure

Published date07 February 2023
Publication titleSignal
THE number one movie on Netflix, You People, has mainstream critics cringing and Black Twitter talking back to the screen. The takeaway: they’re not buying any of it — not the culture clash, not the casting and definitely not the chemistry between the two romantic leads

More reinterpretation than remake of the 1967 classic Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, You People — Black-ish creator Kenya Barris’s feature film directing debut — is a typical romcom by the numbers. But instead of two basic white people playing the ‘‘will they, won’t they’’ game, writer Jonah Hill is Ezra, a white Jewish man trying to make it work with a Black Muslim woman called Amira, played by Lauren London, in spite of their hidebound families.

And I liked it! — contrary to what seems like everyone else who watched it. It was fun, fast-paced and full of well-timed cameos I never saw coming — not least Mike Epps playing Eddie Murphy’s younger brother. You People was dismissed by Black Twitter early on, starting when it was first announced in summer 2021 as yet another manifestation of Barris’ obsession with his own mixed-race heritage. Any excitement over the leading lady casting of Lauren London quickly gave way to grumbling about Nia Long being far too young and fine to play her mother.

After its release, audiences also had a hard time believing Eddie Murphy as a militant black father and husband who sees racism in everything. But I found him believable as he cracked wise about his kids having light skin and freaked out about his kufi hat, gifted from Louis Farrakhan, catching fire, I was right there with him, in stitches the whole time.

By far the most searing scepticism was reserved for the relationship between Hill and London, with many flat-out recoiling that they could be romantically linked. The mental block comes down to London having been in a relationship with the rap legend Nipsey Hussle that ended with his tragic shooting death in 2019. Hill and London’s first scene together is punctuated by Hussle’s 2018 hit Last Time That I Checc’d.

In a recent interview, London said she’d only “just started” to heal from that immense loss. The idea that she could rebound with a guy like Hill was so beyond the pale. But that’s just the thing. You People isn’t supposed to be real. London is (checks notes) acting.

But it wasn’t just Black audiences piling on negative feedback. The Daily Beast roasted it for furthering Barris’ “obnoxious racial agenda”. The Guardian gave it two two-star...

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