There is some delay on my Birdman and Selma reviews, because unfortunately I’ve caught a virus and I’m sick in bed for some days recovering. I did manage to watch one movie on demand and that was ‘Dear White People’, which resulted quite interesting.
A social satire that follows the stories of four black students at an Ivy League college where controversy breaks out over a popular but offensive black-face party thrown by white students. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the film explores racial identity in acutely-not-post-racial America while weaving a universal story of forging one’s unique path in the world.
A master of observation, Justin Simien derived much of his script from his experiences at the predominantly white Chapman University and sites his influences as Spike Lee and Stanley Kubrick, and it has to be said that there are indeed echoes of these styles within this movie.
It would be very easy to misconstrue this film and take it as racist attack against white people. In fact, the first segment of the film before the plot thickens is filled with anger and seeming one sidedness which I believe is completely deliberate so as to incite an inflammatory reaction from the audience.
As I persevered with this movie, I began to see how incredibly perceptive it was to all angles of prejudice and concluded that it is actually a stroke of brilliance from a talented mind who is more than capable of seeing the big picture. When you see the big picture you can present a multidimensional interpretation. Therefore, in the spirit of true art, with a film such as this, people see whatever it is they want to see and that’s the whole point of what this work is trying to communicate. This movie is not really about the struggle for equality between black and white people but more about human behavior and the lengths that people will go to get their own way. This desire is all inclusive of humanity and not reserved for particular races alone.
The film itself follows 4 individuals with similar needs but different agendas and examines their methods for getting what it is they think they want. However, as events run their course, each of them realize that they are actually seeking something completely different from what they imagined. In the end, the most angry and rebellious of the four, ironically and ridiculously called Sam White who plays an angry anti-white activist, just wants to be loved and accepted and doesn’t really care that the man who loves her happens to be white; Lionel, the shy confused reporter who is a loner, becomes anarchic and gains inclusion, Coco, the fame seeking manipulator who will do most anything to get ahead, comes down to earth and lets go of her ambition and the only one who stays true to his role, for whom ‘success’ in the eyes of others is more important than any ’cause’ is Troy.
This film is a fantastic send up of the rigid beliefs that keep people stuck in racist attitudes but the bottom line, which is demonstrated in the very last scene of the film, is money. Thus proving that when it comes to down to the wire, money speaks louder than colour and any other segregating belief, and that is why, in the secret circles of the extremely rich and powerful, you can be from Mars, with purple hair and green spots, and no-one will give a damn!
Another thing that has to be said is that the production design and cinematography were absolutely fantastic. There’s a serious, Kubrickian formality and coldness to Dear White People. The sets and costumes are very precise, the performances are pronounced and formal, plus Simian uses classical music to give it this elevated, mannered calm.
Some negative points I can take out of this movie, is the pace in Act II which falls and drags a bit. Some characters were not folded as well as the rest. But the main problem really is during the midpoint of Act II as the movie deviates a bit from it’s subject, especially with the sort-of romance between two black characters that really felt strange and misplaced.
Dear White People gets a 7.5/10.