Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Kyle Gallner, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P Bell, Brittany Curran, Justin Dobies, Marque Richardson, Malcolm Barrett, Dennis Haysbert, Peter Syvertsen, Brandon Alter, Kate Gaulke
Written by: Justin Simien
Directed by: Justin Simien
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content and drug use
Running Time: 108
Date: 10/17/2014

Dear White People (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

To and Fro

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Not since Do the Right Thing has an American comedy been so astute, so clever, and so perceptive in discussing race, or, more accurately, human beings with different identities.

Justin Simien's Dear White People (2014) is set at the fictional, prestigious, and largely white Winchester University. Among the many characters, we have Sam White (the terrific Tessa Thompson, also in Creed), who runs a radio show satirizing the behavior of whites, and unexpectedly wins an election to become the head of the campus's only all-black house, Armstrong/Parker.

She ousts Troy (Brandon P Bell), who is miserable as he tries to please his father (Dennis Haysbert), the dean. Lionel (Tyler James Williams) is a shy, gay student with a giant afro who begins writing an article on black culture at the school, and Coco Conners (Teyonah Parris, also in Spike Lee's Chi-Raq), wears a long weave.

The rich dialogue is heavy with jokes, themes, ideas, pet peeves, and all kinds of other stuff about what people are supposed to be angry about, how people are supposed to behave, and, underneath it all, a few suggestions about who people actually are. The movie doesn't pretend to know any of the answers to any of this stuff, and often doesn't even pinpoint any specific problems, but it has quite a bit of prickly, intelligent fun trying.

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