You know the expression, You can’t see the forest for the trees? Well, this movie feels like You can’t see the plot or the point for the dated jokes and in-your-face attempts at humor. While You People has the potential to raise some interesting points about race and relationships in America through the guise of a rom-com, it’s nearly impossible to hear any of that over the near constant din of actors performing bits, with the dial almost always turned up to absurd. This movie is like a master class in people never having a normal conversation. Also, while it’s not sci-fi in any way shape or form, the tenor of the jokes made me distinctly feel like I was breaking my own rules about watching things with time travel. Also, also, it’s  nearly two hours long, and it really doesn’t need to be.

Our journey begins with Ezra (Jonah Hill) and his podcast co-host/bestie Mo (Sam Jay) riffing on Obama’s middle name, how he smokes Newports, which are the “choice of crackheads,” and how he does cocaine when he wants an excuse to do “gay stuff.” So, real groundbreaking, timely, and just breathtakingly well-framed jokes that I’m so glad they have a platform to pontificate about. When Ezra’s not doing a podcast about “the culture,” as he calls it, he works in finance, a job that he hates and wants to ditch. I’m really trying to muster sympathy, because it’s no fun to be stuck in a soul-sucking line of work like that, but, honestly, it’s frustrating to me that the focus is more on his tribulations than on those of his girlfriend, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Mo and Ezra amongst their podcast setup. Messages from fans are scrolling up the screen. A sign behind them says the 'Mo and E Z Show.
This movie could be called the Mo and EZ show.

Then we move on to Yom Kippur services in Brentwood where the camera moves down the aisle of the temple at floor level, showing us a collection of beige and greige shoes until it reaches some very bright blue and white Nikes, which, of course, belong to Ezra, who also has many tattoos and some partially bleached blonde that’s so fried in the back that it looks like old doll hair. His mother (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) notices he’s missing his yarmulke, which he accidentally left in the car, and she starts going on about how she’s not square and how she knows “you’re expressing yourself with these illustrations. Graffiti all over your body. But it is Yom Kippur, goddamn it.” And let me tell you that this discussion feels like someone turned up the dial on the human interactions mixing board past eleven. They keep having this conversation, in the middle of high holy services, and his Bubbe (Rhea Perlman) adds that he won’t be able to be buried in a Jewish cemetery, which is a tired line that isn’t necessarily even true and it earns a whole diatribe from Ezra about how they can flush him down the urinal when he’s dead. Respectfully? This conversation sounds so stagy that it’s physically painful. Am I saying the elements don’t exist in real life? Not at all. But the way it’s done here feels like when a child is yelling directly into your face to tell you a story. People, just use your inside voices and speak to each other like you’re having an actual conversation. Anyway, I  need to pace myself because we’ve only just begun. But I do need to say that they set this up like Ezra is somehow wholly unique, and I just find it hard to believe that in a packed synagogue in Brentwood, CA he’s the only tattooed sneakerhead in his mid-30s with podcast aspirations, who’s stuck in an upper-middle class job that he doesn’t love, and who feels like hip-hop and Black culture has had a profound impact on his life. 

Ezra and his family in the synagogue. Ezra looks annoyed and is not participating. HIs hair is bleached blonde on the bottom. The bottom curls appear to be very dry and crunch.
This is mostly so I can show you the back of his hair, which I can feel through the screen.

 Outside the shul, Ezra runs into an older man who asks after his penis, and invites him into the bathroom to let him check it out, which he declines. Then Ezra asks his mom why his orthodontist was asking about his penis and it turns out this is all a set-up for a joke about sexual assault and for his mother to support the abuser, who she says is innocent until proven guilty. We’re just going with keeping that in the final cut, huh? How charming. Ezra’s mom also really wants him to date a nice girl. So he goes on a date with a woman his mom pointed out to him at the synagogue who laughs at him for wanting to make a podcast about “the culture,” and then he laments to his friend Mo that he’s never going to find a woman who understands him. I mean, to be fair, I think she did understand him, she just didn’t seem to like him very much and vice versa.

A while woman sitting across from Ezra, looking very annoyed.
Oh, she got him, all right.

Mo tells him he’s being too needy and it’s supposed to be humorous, but, you know, maybe it’s too soon overall in the span of toxic masculinity for jokes about how men wanting to be in stable relationships are too needy?

Meanwhile, we finally meet Amira (Lauren London), who is packing up her Mini Cooper and telling off her ex-boyfriend Chris (Doug Hall), who she says doesn’t really see her and just tells her what she wants to hear. And that’s really all we get about Amira before it’s back to Ezra!

Finally we meet Amira!!

Anyway, Ezra and Amira actually do have a decent meet-cute when she gets lost trying to find her way to a location for her work as a costume designer and ends up pulling over in the driveway of the building where he works as a broker. Thinking that she’s driving the Uber he ordered, he hops into the backseat. Screaming ensues. She accuses him of being racist, assuming that he could just jump in the back of any inexpensive car driven by a Black woman. He shows her the picture of the Uber driver and she agrees that they actually could be twins. He offers to help her get to her destination and from there they start to date. (I’m still not sure I buy that she would just let him into her car, but I’m willing to let it slide.) The actual Uber driver I guess is just shit out of luck. Or would she still get paid for the fare? And look, I don’t know how much chemistry I feel like these two have, but they have some charisma and they give off wafts of mutual respect, common interests, and a shared sense of humor, which is kind of better than sparks in this particular case since we’re looking at their relationship blossom rather than just build heat. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor, but you get the point.) And I think where the movie does feel natural is when it’s showing Ezra and Amira together as two people finding someone who gets them and sees them (and likes them), but who have difficulties being together because of society and their families. But those more nuanced moments are far too fleeting.

Amira turning around in her car to yell at Ezra who has gotten in the back seat.
I’m still not sure I can buy that she just let him ride in her car, but…
Amira, wearing a red bandana, rolling her eyes.
I very much felt Amira here.

We fast-forward six months into their relationship, when Amira and Ezra decide it’s time for them to meet each other’s parents. First up is Ezra’s family, where there isn’t so much a conversation as a constant battery of noise. Are there kernels of truth in there about upper-class white liberals and racism? For sure, but it’s hard to find them among the absolute chaos of this script. This feels like when a toddler wants to show you something, but they insist on holding it a mere two inches from your eyeballs. Ezra’s sister (Molly Gordon) is reduced to one lustful look at Amira to convey that she is a lesbian and to open the door for yet another over-the-top spiel by Ezra’s mother. Ezra’s father Arnold (David Duchovny) is, unsurprisingly, more passive, and he mostly just bangs on and on (and on) about the rapper Xzibit. 

Ezra's sister standing awkwardly in the living room after having gaped at Amira. Her mother sits on the couch and looks at her.
It’s been six months and she hasn’t even seen a picture of Amira on any kind of social media? Ever? Doubtful. At the least she would have figured out who she was and looked her up. So she should be that overwhelmed when she meets her in person, is what I’m saying.

Before Ezra has the chance to meet Amira’s family, he buys her an engagement ring from Tiffany’s, obviously, and then, when Mo points out that it’s a very small diamond, he makes a joke about how he’ll just pretend it’s his grandmother’s from the Holocaust because, “they can’t say shit. Once you drop the Holocaust, they’re like…” I think this is all supposed to be cute and charming? And if you find it either of those I’d really like to hear why and how. Mo also thinks he should talk to Amira’s family before he proposes, which goes horribly. Look, I’m getting tired, so let me say that at this point we are 37 minutes into this movie, so there are still miles to go before the happy ending credits roll. Amira’s parents (Eddie Murphy and Nia Long), who are Nation of Islam, are none too happy about the fact that she’s chosen Ezra to be her betrothed, but they respect that she’s an adult and give her space to make her own choices. Ha! As if! No. Both sets of parents join Amira and Ezra for dinner where they start to joust about the Nation of Islam and Judaism and then descend into the some Oppression Olympics before an accidental incendiary event occurs. Again, are there actual truths woven in here? Yes, but it’s treated with all the nuance and grace of Wile E. Coyote and an anvil. Later, there’s a whole bit where Amira’s father takes Erza to a Crips barber shop while Ezra’s wearing a red hoodie and then proceeds to make an extended joke about jailhouse rape. There’s a scene where Ezra’s mom manages to pull off a Black woman’s wig by snagging her ring on it. There’s a whole thing about Ezra and cocaine that went on for so long that I think I forgot where I was. There’s a joke about a man trying to get out of paying child support by catching his ex with another man where he says he wanted to see her “broke down over, like a shotgun” because he thought if the judge saw “her being a ho, my child support will go low.” There’s more than one scene where people go through frenzied verbal gymnastics in order to avoid saying the N-word, which I get is supposed to be a commentary on whiteness, and it might have worked if any of the scenes involving more than just Ezra and Amira didn’t feel like people yelling at each other over extremely spotty video calls. A real question: Do Jonah Hill and Kenya Barris, who wrote this movie, actually like, respect, or care about any of the people they’re depicting?

Amira and Ezra seated on an orange loveseat. His parents on a yellow couch to the left. Her parents on a teal couch to the left. Everyone looks uncomfortable.
Ezra and friends in a Las Vegas hotel room with blow up sex dolls and many bottles of champagne.
Oh. Then also Ezra’s bachelor’s party, which he insists is just a time for him to cut loose and be someone he’s usually not, but I don’t know, friend. If your cutting loose time involves a lot things that are disrespectful toward and disparaging of women, maybe it’s time to reconsider you definition of fun? Also, all of his friends are gross except for Mo? Is this supposed to be funny? If I were Amira I’d be concerned.

Through all of this, the focus remains mostly on Ezra, which is a shame because, of all the characters in this movie, Amira is the only one who is remotely appealing. We do learn that she struggles to find work or advance in her field because of bias and racism. During one job pitch, two white guys mistakenly think she went to Harvard. When she explains that she went to Howard University they look visibly crestfallen and ultimately tell her they don’t think she has the right costuming experience for their period piece. Oh, hey, this is interesting!

Two white men in Harvard sweatshirts seated at a table.
There are two full scenes about how Ezra doesn’t know how to say hello to his boss, or some shit like that, but we only about 30-seconds devoted to the actually interesting question or Amira’s racist colleagues.

She expresses her frustrations to Ezra who wants to fix the problem by hooking her up with his connections, but Amira wants to get ahead powered by her own steam, which he doesn’t seem to get. Her story is never really finished, and it’s unclear if he ever really understands her very important perspective. And is he really seeing her if he doesn’t? That’s my question, not the movie’s, but I think it’s almost as important as if their families and cultural expectations can get the fuck out their way. Like, if he doesn’t ultimately get that, well, I don’t know, but it seems like he may not get anything. You know? While we see Ezra quit his finance job and presumably make it in podcasting, things are left open-ended with Amira’s work and life. It seems more important to the movie that we understand that he feels understood and seen by her, which is certainly a perspective. There’s also a lot in here about gender norms and stereotypes that seems to go unchallenged. Like when Amira’s father asks Ezra how he plans to support his daughter by podcasting. It’s not surprising that her father asked it, but I kind of expected Ezra to respond that they’ll support each other or that Amira is a grown-ass woman who has been supporting herself for years quite successfully, thank you very much, but the conversation doesn’t go that way at all. Which kinda sums up a lot about how this whole movie went for me overall. Phew. I need a nap.

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

Distressing: I’m so uncomfortable. I wonder if this will ever stop. I might want to be sedated.

One thought on “YOU PEOPLE (2023): This Didn’t Go The Way I Thought It Would

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