Saturday, October 25, 2014

Dear White People

Nine Things About the Movie "Dear White People" (USA, 2014)

1. This brave, thoughtful firecracker of a movie sits right on the nexus of racism, classism, and homophobia. It opens a Pandora’s Box of issues and identities in contemporary society.

2. It is set in a mostly white, success-obsessed Ivy League college, and follows four black students as they try to figure out what they want from life - and what life wants from them.

3. Each of the four main characters are well-played and embody various perspectives of young black culture: Samantha is a hell-raising protester. Troy is the guy that has it all made - as long as he can be a trophy. Coco is the one that wants to be famous. But I think the best performance of the movie comes from Tyler James Williams, who plays Lionel, the black gay guy that can’t seem to find his place anywhere.

4. The movie is kind of a hodgepodge of scenes at the beginning, as if the film doesn’t know quite what it wants to be. But as it moves along, it begins to sort itself out.

5. The movie is really funny, both in a satirical way, and in a “oh-no-they-didn’t” way. But it’s humor with a point, and the movie bites you while you’re laughing.

6. While the movie is told mostly from the black perspective, it doesn’t let anybody off the hook. First-time writer/director Justin Simeon knows his stuff, and is perfectly willing to aim some jabs squarely at the black community.

7. The movie as a whole isn’t quite as coherent as perhaps it could have been, but that can be forgiven when you consider what Simeon is trying to do. And there are some amazing individual scenes that have both the guts and sensitivity to push the topic way past the level of polite conversation.

8. The movie raises more questions than it can possibly answer. It actually doesn’t answer any of them, but that’s ok. It’s function is not to solve the problems, but to make sure we can all admit they’re there. The real brilliance of the movie is not just in its ability to illustrate the frustrating, vague tensions between the races, but in its ability to show the frustrating, vague, symbiosis of the races.

9. This is a rare movie that I like more and more each time I think about it. It’s not perfect, but it’s important, and necessary. When it comes to the culture wars, this movie is going to leave a mark.