Open Letter – Dear White People (2014)

A promising directorial debut.  So this is about four African American students attending an Ivy League college, trying to mind their own business, but naturally, nothing is ever that simple.  I had very limited information about this going in; I knew it had a tongue-in-cheek memorable title, and that it was sold to me as being a conversation starter.  While I do think this is a little rough around the edges, I do agree with that consensus: this is a great film to watch with friends because the pointed commentary featured can spark discussions to the point of changing perceptions on stereotypes.  While I did end up watching this by myself, I would have preferred to have watched this in a diverse group of friends because of this.

DWP1I’ve still yet to see a Tyler Perry movie, but I imagine that this is wholly accurate.

If you were to judge this movie by its title, you may think this is about a bunch of white people being goofy, listening to Dave Matthews Band, and thinking that they are invincible after they drink two cans of Mountain Dew.  It’s not.  This is really more about stereotypes, how black people are viewed as a whole, and how blacks and whites fit into each other’s cultures.  It dares to bring up a lot of good points that will irk you and rub you the wrong way, even to the point of offending, but this is only done with the intention of getting your brain thinking about race issues from a different angle.  Director Justin Simien wants you to have a conversation, and in that regard, Dear White People succeeds wildly.

dwp2After the party scene, I promise you that you will want to talk about it.

As a film, this is not perfect, and Simien can’t sidestep a number of first timer mistakes: there are about three too many subplots, there could have been about 15 minutes trimmed off, and there are some characters that fall to the wayside as far as being compelling protagonists.  I am confident he will become a better filmmaker as he matures, but for the most part, this does work.  It all culminates with a really messed up ending, which is only amplified by the fact that it is based off of real life events.  It’s a good piece to wrap your brain around, and it brings up the taboo topic that nobody in Hollywood wants to talk about: race.

Dear White People (2014) ***1/2

– Critic for Hire


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