There was a neat sketch on Saturday Night Live at the weekend, reason enough for comment. The set-up was a Big Hollywood Movie Quiz for a familiar kind of big-screen aficionado, but when the subject turns to what’s on streaming, the cinema buffs have no knowledge to offer whatsoever. That sketch hits a target; since the pandemic fragmented our culture and reduced our communal, shared experiences, a chunk of potential audiences have just given up on cinema, and are content to watch whatever reheated slop streamers serve up instead. Thus You People is the top movie on Netflix right now, and has been for some time, yet despite a top notch cast and an edgy, contemporary subject matter, there’s not much online debate, discussion or controversy about it.
In essence, this is a racially-themed rom-com; Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? would be seen as the obvious predecessor. But while that film had Sidney Poitier as a too- good-to-be true potential partner that eventually pleases his white in-laws, You People inverts the equation, as we might expect from director Kenya Barris, creator of blackish. The suitor here is the less-than-perfect Ezra Cohen, played by Jonah Hill with a Hemingway beard, a ‘white Barry White’ podcaster who is introduced as ‘the Jew with nothing to do’. Ezra’s dilettante ways are changed when he meets Amira Mohammed (Lauran London); we don’t see much of the process by which they overcome racial barriers to fall in love, but we do zero in on the immediate aftermath. Ezra’s parents Arnold and Shelley (David Duchovny and Julia Louis-Dreyfus) are keen, perhaps too keen to welcome Amira to their family, but Ezra has a tougher time with Amira’s folks, Akbar and Fatima, played by Eddie Murphy and Nia Long. Black is one thing, but Muslim is another, and Ezra and Amir find they have an uphill struggle to win the approval of their in-laws…
With some vintage 70’s stars in support (Richard Benjamin! Elliott Gould!), You People attempts to go back to the cutting edge of racial comedy, or at least troll us a little, and a game cast throw themselves into proceedings which, apart from a contrived moment of Dreyfus setting fire to Murphy’s hat, steer clear of slapstick and aim instead at observational humour. Despite the beard, Hill is a highly recognisable star, but also has a certain modern attitude that You People plays into; Hill co-writes, and some of the language and references feel very much in his usual wheelhouse. “They made me take a vaccine to go to the casino’ says Murphy, and Duchovny also hits the spot with his inappropriate piano-playing scene.
You People ends up with a very limp final stretch in which apologies are made and the world righted with painfully contrived ease; it’s got a feel-good ending that it doesn’t really deserve. But it’s also a passably enjoyable light watch, name-checking hot-button topics like police brutality as part of a genial ‘celebrating our differences’ comedy. But a scene in which Ezra refuses to do cocaine with his friends in a stag-party do in a strip club sends out a mixed message; all the sentiment about race and religion seems beside the point when women seem to be treated so casually and thoughtlessly as an underclass. You People sets out to deliver a shock to the system by playing with racial and religious edges, but ends up playing out conventional sitcom tropes.
Yep, tons of stuff will just disappear. Until somewhere new pops up for it to go. That’s like Hollywood discovering TV and then VHS, cable, DVD etc. There might well be an endless market for stuff you’ve never heard of but can be sold cheaply and fill out a programme. But, I get you, a lot of movies/series by big stars have just vanished.
The amount of money spent and the number of viewers must be wildly disproportionate. It’s more imitation by way of industry disruption; there’s tonnes of stuff being made yet it seems to be playing to an audience fragmented.
Though I suppose if you counted audiences by box office they would still be relatively small – $100m might only equate to about 7m viewers.
I doubt that any streamers are getting that kind of audience; if they were, we wouldn’t be getting stories about how many people had watched 50+ seconds of any given film.
In due course someone will come up with an accurate Neilsen-style way of measuring streamer watches but nobody belives these inflated figures anyway.
I only heard one thing about this so far besides your review here. There are a lot of people in it and considering the cast it very much underwhelmed. Is that a fair, one sentence assessment?
Given the talent involved, yes.
I want to talk about the SNL skit instead of You People, which basically proves the point of the sketch. In many ways, SNL has gone the way of the big movie—it is no longer must-see TV. But it still occassionally captures the cultural moment perfectly, as it did in this sketch (Also the fairly recent horror film skit on who would run for the democratic nomination for US president was similiarly perfect).
It is remrakable that you can meet people who are huge fans of Nicole Kidman or Sam Jackson, and have never heard or have any interest in their streaming offerings. I do think it’s a new phenomenon; somehow the pandemic put a lid on audience interest, and culture is seen in the fashion of a post mortem. Films and series just come out and don’t get talked about or reviewed, they just vanish. I’m watching the new Tina Fey produced series Girls 4 Eva and I literally didn’t know it existed and I’m a huge fan. Fragmentation is the reason…missed the Democratic skit, will go back and look for it. I guess the days of must see anything are over…
Completely. The Nicole Kidman one is the one that got me. She’s probably my favorite contemporary actress–I’ve seen ~70% of her films, and always seek her out. And I had never heard of the show Roar.
It almost feels like we’ve gone back to the penny dreadful days with all this content. You’ll never run out of content, but good luck remembering it.
The Biden Horror Movie skit is worth a few minutes of anyone’s time who’s interested in American politics. The democratic anxiety about Biden’s age and the lack of charismatic replacements is captured pefectly.
I’m genuinely concerned that the over generation of content is going to lead to a lack of new product, just streamers licensing out their content to each other. Just got a press release for a new Kevin Hart film ( I know) which is ten Quibi episodes mashed together…
That sketch makes a good point; although he was probably the worst choice due to his age, Biden was the right choice against Trump, in terms of market recognisability. Dems won’t need that again against DeSantis or Haley, but they’ll need to develop someone fast and make them look presidential and there’s few to choose from…but Rep corruption could well sink the GOP for a decade, leaving a turkey shoot if the dems can find a half decent candidate…I’ve no faith in the Dems at all, but at least they believe in elections, which does make them electable…
Not surprised people don’t want to go to the cinema anymore. The plague hasn’t gone away so who wants to sit in an unventilated room with herds of the great unwashed breathing their rancid infected breath on you. Just sayin’.
I hear you, and yes, its different sitting in a press show with half a dozen critics, so I get it. Still people getting Covid, and still people getting sick with it, but the media spotlight has moved on, even if audiences aren’t back in the same numbers…
You people and your cinemas and your streamings and your tubers. Daggnabit, when zombie Hitler rises and invades you all, you’ll be sorry then.
You kids, buncha punks, that’s what you are. And stop mumbling, stand up straight, look me in the eye when you talk to me.
Back in my day….
It was all better when you could just watch your VHS of The Rescuers Down Under and know that the world was doing the same…
Back when unemployment was 7% and mortgage rates were at 9%.
Ahhhhhh, those were the days!
You could see a movie, buy 6 Monster energy drinks and still have change from a nickel.
Exactly. And you could still punch hitler in the face and he’d feel it.
Now, why can’t movie directors just spend all that money inventing a time machine? I’m thinking there should be an inquiry into this…
Such a good point, I’ll pass that on at the next meeting I have with them…
Thank you for being The Voice of the People. Since I don’t go to cinemas or watch movies much, I feel like my voice is ignored and that my demographic (non-tv watcher) is under represented.
And don’t you worry, that nice shiny dime will be all yours. I tip well after all…
I’d happily take suggestions from you about what I should be watching.
Oh, I don’t think you want that. Because I’d say “nothing, go read a book/s instead”….
Can’t I do both?
Nope. ALL OR NOTHING!
Kind of like being a highlander
There can be only two?
I get to be Sean Connery then…
No, I am Ramirez ! You peed your kilt hahaha!
I’ll plead guilty to not having a clue what’s streaming. But then Jonah Hill is unrecognizable to me with or without a beard.
top-good-to-be-true only applies to Top Cat
What do they teach in your schools? Jonah Hill is a well kent face, no?
Top Cat is best cat.
Just checked out his filmography and was surprised to find that I’ve seen him in half-a-dozen movies. But I didn’t register his presence in any of them. I wouldn’t recognize his face anywhere.
Very low key in minor roles in Superbad, Wolf of Wall Street and Moneyball. Blink and you’d miss him.
I don’t know who he is either.