Dear White People Movie Review
Dear White People, your movie is better than it should be and not as good as you think it is. The quasi-comedy, full satire about several black students facing adversity at an Ivy League college is a well-written, mildly entertaining piece of filmmaking that more than gets its point across—but lacks the bite to make it a classic.
I rarely quote other people’s reviews (by rarely, I mean never), but Variety’s Justin Chang sums up the movie well, saying it “provokes admiration for having bothered to ask some of the hard questions without pretending to know any of the answers.” And it does so in a way that manages to critique white people’s views of African-Americans while including them in the discussion; this isn’t simply a movie about racism made for black people to nod their heads to.
Writer/director Justin Simien made Dear White People on a shoestring budget, at least in part from money raised through crowdsourcing. The movie, his first full-length production, looks terrific, but its sharp, witty script is what makes the movie shine. Simien packs a lot of social commentary and a lot of characters into 108 minutes, and more impressively makes all of the overlapping subplots work in harmony.
But for all its merits, Dear White People isn’t a classic. As a drama that raises tough questions, it works well enough. The characters are interesting, the actors good enough to make them that way, and the social commentary works well enough; but as a comedy, or satire, or whatever you want to call it, Dear White People lacks it-factor. It isn’t very funny, and though it didn’t need to be, you can tell Simien probably intended, or at least wanted, it to be funnier and more biting than it actually is.
The ultimate result is a well-paced movie that is generally entertaining but lacks the comedic or satirical bite to elevate it to the next level. Dear White People, you’re good, but not that good.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.