At a recent cocktail party thrown at Nobu 57, Netflix invited a small group of critics, journalists and influencers to screen their newest comedy “You People” and between the superlative sushi and perfect cocktails, director Kenya Barris did the rounds.
I would have never imagined that I would be writing these words, but here it is: Actor, producer, screenwriter Jonah Hill is sexy in “You People”—I know, I know, I can’t believe it either, but he is.
In this new romantic comedy, Hill plays Ezra and his character actually has all the right moves to land the love and devotion of an African American woman (Lauren London), despite the complications of their cultural differences.
Ezra is middle-aged (35) and single but yearns to find a sincere relationship. He’s a hard-working man stuck in a job that he hates, at a brokerage firm making money but zero love connections.
At a glance, Ezra looks like a nervous man without much in terms of social skills, but he’s actually hip. He collects Nike sneakers and has beautifully crafted tattoos covering his arms.
He’s a happy, outgoing Jewish man. On a date, he tells a woman he met at the synagogue that he has a podcast with co-host Mo (Sam Jay) that focuses on pop culture. She says: “You’re a Jew from West L.A.,” adding with a deadpan expression that speaks volumes, “What do you know about culture?”
On a chance meeting, Ezra gets in a car that he assumes is his Uber ride. It’s not. The car belongs to Amira (Lauren London) and once the crazy is turned down to a reasonable decimal level, they acknowledge the chemistry. On their first date, we learn she’s an aspiring costume designer and doesn’t rush into relationships. At first glance, Ezra seems out of her league, but his charm is powerful, and six months later, after moving in together, they decide to get married.
What force could stop this growing love affair? Winning over Amira’s parents Fatima (Nia Long) and Akbar (Eddie Murphy), a hardline Muslim who wears T-shirts that reads “Fred Hampton Was Murdered.”
Now, let’s take a moment to recap. Ezra is white and Jewish; Amira’s parents are not, and are downright suspicious. I mean, why does he want to marry their daughter?
Now, if you are of a certain age, you know that when you get married, it’s more than just the couple. The joining of two families is essential to having a happy marriage. The cultural differences explored in this movie aren’t that significant—not really. But in the hands of comedic genius, the envelope is pushed, and pushed and pushed—and pushed again. Does it work? The answer is sometimes, but more often, the movie feels like sketches and they wear thin.
Full disclosure: I am a fan of Barris (creator of ABC’s “Black-ish”), for all the reasons you would suspect, and a few that surprise me. For this new movie, he co-wrote the screenplay with Hill, and I suspect the cast was given room to play.
When Ezra finally brings Amira home to meet his parents, Shelley (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Arnold (David Duchovny), his mother can’t stop complimenting Amira on her hair and accessories, stumbling into her feelings about police brutality and other things that make you feel uncomfortable. The idea of having a daughter-in-law of color makes her feel hip; Akbar, on the other hand, isn’t embracing Ezra and takes every opportunity to make him look stupid
Comedic hijinks ensue: At a dinner with both sets of parents present, the polite conversation quickly dissolves into an edgier exchange. At a pickup basketball game, Akbar tries to embarrass Ezra, live-streaming the game. When Ezra goes to his bachelor party in Las Vegas, Akbar tags along uninvited, hoping to catch his future son-in-law in an embarrassing situation. Shelley and Fatima host a bachelorette party in Palm Springs for Amira and her best friends. It does not go well.
Mo, Ezra’s best friend, drops so many truth bombs, it’s hard to keep track. By the time the couple are sitting down to their wedding night dinner, they are exhausted—not from each other but from their families. Ezra and Amira question if their marriage could survive with this level of tension, so they break up.
And then what happens? I won’t answer because “You People” will be available for streaming to Netflix subscribers beginning Jan. 27, 2023.
Starring Jonah Hill, Lauren London, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Eddie Murphy, Nia Long, David Duchovny, Sam Jay, Elliott Gould, Travis Bennett, Molly Gordon, Rhea Perlman, Deon Cole, Andrea Savage, Mike Epps, Anthony Anderson, Hal Linden and Richard Benjamin.