Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Dear White People (2015) review

Justin Simien, the director of Dear White People, stated in an interview with The Guardian about the film; “It’s a social commentary on what I consider to the be new American black experience and about the supposed post-racial place that we’re definitely not in but think we’re in.” Focusing on four black students at an Ivy League university, the dry script is indeed full of biting commentary on the illusions that people have put themselves under, with passive-aggressive, and blatantly aggressive, statements coming from students and deans alike.

The title is derived from the radio programme hosted by outspoken film student Samantha White (Tessa Thompson), whose content is the gripe of much of the faculty. With such advice as "the minimum number of black friends to not seem racist has just been raised to two", she draws contempt not just from the professors and white students, but also from other black students, who don't appreciate the way she insinuates that they adjust themselves to suit white people. Meanwhile, the head of a white sorority house, Kurt (Kyle Gallner), who also runs a student comedy magazine, is trying to think of a good Halloween party theme, and the idea of doing black face is suggested...

The best part of Dear White People is the script, with one liners that that are as smart as they are cringe-worthy, and the actors play each part with great timing and perfect articulation. The style of the film reminded me of Wes Anderson's older work, with a focus on production design and editing. While the resolve of the main plot is satisfactory, the personal problems of Sam are almost dealt with too briskly at the end, and the emotion of the moment is a little too forced.

While the ending may fall a little flat, it is Simien's ability to try and answer all the questions, and acknowledge that he doesn't have all the answers, that leaves this satire effective in its message.



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