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Dear White People (2014)
A Review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Justin Simien
Written by: Justin Simien
Produced by: Code Red, Duly Noted, Homegrown Pictures.
Starring: Tessa Thompson, Tyler James Williams, Brandon P. Bell, Dennis Haysbert, Kyle Gallner, Teyonah Parris.
Micro-aggressions. That is what Justin Simien’s debut feature, DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, is about. It is about the micro-aggressions we commit to people who look, think, and feel different than we do, and the ignorance that can be birthed from that. The picture is well worth watching, as a comedy first, but as a social statement primarily.
The film follows Sam (Tessa Thompson), a black student at an Ivy League college who hosts a radio show called “Dear White People” and frequently protests with various social groups. She finds herself at ends with the owner of a satire magazine called Pastiche (Kyle Gallner); problem being that he and his magazine do not really understand the concept of satire.
The acting is decent. Most all of the young actors, and especially Dennis Haysbert as the Dean, are competent in the delivery of their lines, able to sound like they reside on the Planet Earth. They did not need to push much though, as Simien’s script is what makes the film work at its core, buoying all of the actors.
DEAR WHITE PEOPLE, for better or worse, is a film that you cannot approach without getting fiercely political, so lets get political. The climax of the film is set around a party the members of Pastiche throw where several of the students don Black-face, this is based off several real parties that have been thrown across the country. This is supposedly meant to be ironic or funny but in context it is nothing shy of terribly racist.
The social issues could undercut the impact of DEAR WHITE PEOPLE as a comedy. This is not the case, as the film is still funny, getting laughs out of Sam’s vicious passion or out of Simien’s (for lack of a better word) Wes Anderson-esque direction. It’s a decent movie that does what pictures so often try to do and fail; it is a film that allows you to see from the perspective of a different group of people, to see their feelings, what makes them laugh, what makes them sad, what makes them happy. The picture makes you think about what the world would be like if everybody considered such things.