The new movie of Blackish creator Kenya Barris and comedy star Jonah Hill, Your peoplenow it’s streaming, but should i give it a watch?
- «A family man struggles to gain a sense of cultural identity while raising his children in a predominantly white, upper-middle-class neighborhood of Los Angeles»
- «Based in Los Angeles, A Father takes an irreverent and honest approach to parenting and relationships.»
- «Set against the backdrop of modern-day Los Angeles, the story follows a new couple and their families as they examine modern love and family dynamics amid conflicting cultures, societal expectations and generational differences.»
Throw a dart into a Kenya Barris project and you’ll probably land on the same key elements every time. While this doesn’t make you a bad writer or a failure, in fact quite the opposite, it makes you seem repetitive and singularly focused.
So when Barris was set to make his feature film directorial debut for Netflix, many thought or hoped that his latest creation would be an evolution of his previous work and show that he can do more with a different medium.
Your people is not that.
The film is exactly what Barris’s work has us used to. Yes #BlackAF was Blackish mixed with The office, after Your people is Blackish mixed with the Jewish-American experience of Barris’s co-writer, Jonah Hill.
With a plot like this (it’s the third of the three listed above), any movie buff will draw comparisons to Stanley Kramer’s 1967 film. Guess who’s coming to dinner starring screen legend Sidney Poitier or his 2005 romantic comedy «update» Guess who with Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher and the movie deserves it.
The role of the inflexible, overbearing father is the perfectly cast Eddie Murphy, who takes his temper and stubbornness from 1967’s Spencer Tracy but puts him in many of the similar situations of Bernie Mac’s comedic approach. Watch the Guess Who scene tape from 2005 in the car listening to «Ebony & Ivory» versus the scene in Your people where they listen to “N****s in Paris” by Jay-Z & Kanye.
Much like comparing Barris’s previous works to this one, comparing stories of past relationships that clashed with this one doesn’t make the movie bad or uninteresting. Still, it can seem quite repetitive and less impactful.
The casting choices are probably the best part of this movie, as we get an SNL reunion with Murphy and his co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, Veep), who plays Jonah Hill’s neurotic, overcompensating and deliberately sad mother.
The film also stars: Nia Long (Friday), David Duchovni (X-files), Mike Epps (dolemite is my name), Rhea Perlman (Health), Elliott Gould (Ocean’s Eleven) and Deon Cole (Blackish).
The best performances, scenes, and overall chemistry belong to Jonah Hill, his brilliant co-stars Lauren London (who plays his fiancée Amira), and Sam Jay (his podcast partner Mo).
Hill and London are an incredibly compelling couple with charm, ease, and rational disagreements that elevate the film’s central message.
While podcasts are generally affected by film depictions, I enjoyed Hill & Sam Jay’s on and off-mic conversations, including repeated cultural discussion of post-slavery relationships between black and white Americans as «the cheater and the deceived» with the level of mistrust that will be difficult to overcome.
Overall, the mileage one gets from the awkward humor and cultural musings that Barris is known for will likely measure how much you engage with and enjoy this film. As for me, I thought the film had some standout scenes and performances, but in the end it felt too familiar to stand out from its influences and Barris’s previous projects.
Look at your people if you like
- Guess who’s coming to dinner
- Guess who
Netflix MVP Your people
Jonah Hill as Ezra
Maybe because he co-wrote the movie, but it seemed like the movie’s humor was largely derived from Hill’s performance. His comedic style breaks through the stitched philosophical text that persists throughout. Hill once again proved that he can write and improv incredibly well as he takes on comedy legends like Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
PLAY, PAUSE OR STOP?
If you’re a big fan of Barris & Hill, you might be able to take something out of this family history.