Dear White People (2014)

Comedy, Drama
Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Kyle Gallner, Teyonah Parris
The lives of four black students at an Ivy League college.
Dear White People adds a welcome new voice to cinema's oft-neglected discussion of race, tackling its timely themes with intelligence, honesty, and gratifyingly sharp wit.
  • Roadside Attractions Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 15 Jan 2015 Released:
  • 03 Feb 2015 DVD Release:
  • $4.4M Box office:

All subtitles:

Smart, funny, twisted satire8/10
I give this movie an 8. It is funny, but can be uncomfortable at times. Its a movie I do not expect everybody to get. Like Spike Lee's do the right thing, It will make some feel uncomfortable and immediately go on the defense- which in turn makes them not appreciate the comedy the writing, the cast or the message.

This movie shows real people, real thoughts, real characters. It not glossed over , sugar coated characters ( nor extremist).

The movie offers different view points on what it is like to be a black person in this suppose to be "post racial" country that we live in.

I would give it a look, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie!
Dear White People translated Higher Learning into a language today's black students on white campuses can understand9/10
Justin Simien successfully translated Higher Learning into a language today's black students on white campuses can understand, and he did so in a way that allowed me to walk out of the theater asking for no one's head on a platter. Higher Learning is almost 20 years old, and I still feel the need to quarantine myself immediately after watching out of fear of having a rooftop cafeteria moment with everyone I feel is calling me the N- Word in their head. The students now are different and revolution is happening in a much different way, and Justin understands that.

To that I say, "way to freaking go, Justin Simien, and all involved."

Because my mother's favorite movie is Imitation of Life, I've known about the tragic mulatto for quote some time, but never have I seen one find peace before the end credits. Sure, in my head Peola Johnson went on to live her life as a black woman, in peace. But that only happened in my head. "I'm in the middle of something," Sam told her mother on the phone. As a sometimes filmmaker, it was such an amazing moment. The elusive triple meaning Jay-Z spoke of. Here she was, in the middle of planning a protest, in the middle of a rock (Reggie) and a hard place (Gabe), and in the middle of figuring out exactly who Sam was.

Todd Tucker, Mona Scott-Young, Tyler Perry, and anyone who dares throw a D.A.R.E. shirt on a functioning crack head should grab tickets and see what we who are outside the frame are looking at. The loud yell that came from me during the Madea discussion and George asked, "Where's she going this time? Dialysis?" was needed.

I would be shocked and disappointed if I someday find out Justin isn't a fan of Nikki Giovanni. The love scene between Sam and Gabe has "Seduction" duct taped to it. It was perfect. Pure poetry.

Topher Osborn (Cinematographer), you are the man! Not once was I not in love with everything I was seeing. Be sure to share part of that compliment with Toye Adedipe (Costume Designer)

As a sometimes critic on culture and sometimes higher education guy, I was pleased to see real people on the screen. Unfortunately it'll bypass the thoughts of so many people, but Simien touched on something I speak about often: black students who culturally identify as white due to their upbringing, environment, and now likes and dislikes and who're associated with them.

Though I share almost identical experiences with Sam, including the screening of my film in Professor Dvir's cinematography class at Howard University, while protesting on my undergraduate campus alone, and my constantly being in the middle of something, I didn't feel much of a connection with her, and I'm not sure why. I still rooted for her in all that she did, but if she died, I wouldn't have been sad. However, I'd show up at Colandrea's funeral with the biggest wreath. For me, she was the most well-developed character, and her ending was perfect. To grow up feeling as though she didn't belong due to rejection because she's a middle class girl living in the hood (Obama Style in South Side Chicago), carry that to college, and finally see things differently and work toward reform, but to be rejected again. Life!

I wanted more for Reggie, also. Why was he so into Sam? Who is he without her? I also wanted Sam's struggle to reach a decision between the rock and the hard place to be deeper, and maybe a little bloody. I needed more from her. I do understand though that time allotment doesn't always let us develop characters the way we'd like.

I feel I could have lived without Lionel Higgins, though he was a good temporary distraction between the scenes I loved, but I do get the purpose of his character in the grand scheme.

GO CURLS (Ashley Blaine Featherson)! You were Awesome!

Better film (and definitely better Black film) is being created and produced and Justin Simien and his amazing creative team are taking off! This won't be the last we hear from him, I'm sure. We're ready!
Snarky, witty film that's about more than just race9/10
Dear White People is a quick-witted film with a provocative title. For those who have not seen the full film, there is definitely more to it than what's revealed in the trailer. Initially focusing on race, the film goes deeper into the unexpected and unique aspects of each character, uncovering more than what's just skin deep and taking a look at identity. It's a very interesting movie about self acceptance in a world where issues around race, sexual orientation, and general stereotyping still exist. This film is much more than a black film about race issues in America. I highly recommend it for folks who are interested in a bold film with great dialogue and archetypal characters turned multidimensional.
I wanted to love this but....6/10
The film is essentially one big soapbox and dropped the ball many times and in many different ways.

I want to talk about the positives first and the reason(s) the film is definitely worth watching: I was really impressed with the production value, the acting (most of it) and the humour. I think Teyonah Parris deserves special mention because she was the character I most empathised with simply because she was the only one looking at things from both angles. Tyler James Williams also stood out due to his humour and commitment to his role.

Keeping in mind that a person (or persons) wrote this script with the intention of instigating discussion about the issues raised, I think it's only fair to discuss those issues in reviews especially as some of the commentary affected my enjoyment of the film.

Obviously the film deals with more substantial issues but those applied (mainly) to the USA so to address a few lesser issues: Hair. This subject grates a little (/a lot) for me because I've never heard white people make comments about black hair. Again, this might be a bigger, more well-known topic in the US but here in the UK, I don't think anyone has ever looked twice at a black person's hair. The obsession appears to lie with black (USA) people, not with white people. What is the problem with someone touching your hair? I had a fringe cut in a few months back and people touched it and made comments. When I have my hair curly, people touch it and make nice comments. It might be annoying for you but hair isn't a race issue, it's a hair issue and anyone who focuses on this 'issue' needs to get over it. When Teyonah's character expressed annoyance with being asked if she 'weaved' her hair, I couldn't help but wonder why that was a problem. First of all, how many people say 'Google it'? We make verbs out of nouns all the time and the fact that her white friend asked if it was her own hair, instead of assuming that it wasn't, actually says a lot. Women discuss hair. White women ask each other if they have extensions, if they've had plastic surgery etc. and so for anyone to be annoyed at being asked if they are wearing a weave actually highlights how insecure they are. Not every question or action by a white person is about race. Sometimes it's genuinely about curiosity and taking interest in another person. If you are so touchy about every subject, white people will not want to talk to you for fear of offending you, not because they are racist.

There were other bits of commentary that I took issue with but I don't want my review to turn into a soapbox, so I'll move on to the main gripes I had with the film: When Tessa's character stated that it wasn't possible for black people to be racist, the film lost all credibility. The definition of 'racist' is not up for debate. We have dictionaries to clarify and after consulting one, there is absolutely no mention that in addition to holding the belief that one race is superior to another "the race believed to be inferior must also be negatively affected in some way". It is indeed possible for a black person to hold the belief that one race is better than another which would in fact, make them a racist. How their racist beliefs affect the race they believe to be inferior is irrelevant to the fact that they would be considered racist.

Finally, I disagree that white people dressing up as black people (make-up and all) is (always) the same thing as 'blackface' and I think the more that people focus on these scenarios as opposed to the real blackface which goes on in the industry, the more that film makers will get away with continuing the real tradition of blackface right under everyone's noses.

It's all about intention. Going to a party and dressing as your idol, make-up and all, is flattering and should be encouraged. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look like someone you idolise and when white people are accused of being racist for donning an afro wig and make-up, all that happens is that white people try to isolate themselves from 'ethnic' people to avoid being accused of racism.

The party in the film however, was 100% racist and offensive because the invitation was decidedly unflattering and had nothing to do with celebrating black people.

True blackface is about 'presenting an acceptable image of black people to the world'. Which is interesting when you consider that the main protagonist of this film is mixed-race. It appears that the lead role was written in such a way that allowed the casting of a light skinned woman when it could just as easily have been written in a way that would allow for a dark skinned woman to make all the same points. Casting a light skinned actress to play a dark skinned black woman, is blackface. Especially considering that they will likely apply dark make-up to her skin. Casting a white woman to play a dark skinned Latin-American woman is in the spirit of blackface. Every time a white or light skinned person is given the role of someone who 'should' be darker, that is blackface.

It's not about the make-up. It's about why you're wearing the make-up and any film which tries to hammer home a point about racism using the controversial theme of blackface, while casting a light skinned woman in the leading role, loses a few stars on IMDb for the sheer hypocrisy.

6/10 (it's good entertainment but the message is a bit off)
Angry lecture disguised as comedy? Well-aimed social satire? Or both? You decide!6/10
'Dear White People' is first time writer/director Justin Simien's clever and provocative take on how young black students cope with the issue of assimilation on the majority white (fictional) Winchester University campus. The title refers to a radio show hosted by Sam White (played by the excellent Tessa Thompson), a militant student, who delights in slinging bon mots at the collective white student body.

She comes up with witticisms such as "Dear White people: the minimum requirement of black friends needed to not seem racist has just been raised to two." And then tops it off with, "Sorry, but your weed man, Tyrone, does not count." Other sharp-tongued epithets include: "Dear White People, dating a black person just to p-ss off your parents is itself a form of racism," and "even if Obama cured cancer, white people would still be enraged with him. And he's only half black."

Sam and her Black Student Union supporters are not always averse to being critical of black cultural icons such as Tyler Perry: "Can we have movies with, you know, characters in them instead of stereotypes wrapped in Christian dogma?" And Sam isn't always who she appears to be: although a self-proclaimed bebop aficionado, someone outs Sam for having Taylor Swift on a hidden playlist in her computer—she blurts out: "And I was so careful." What's more, her white boyfriend, an RA in the dorm, is kept hidden from her BSU pals.

Simien is less successful with some of the other characters as they're not fleshed out as well. Sam's rival Troy and his Dad, Dean Fairbanks, have a pretty traditional father-son conflict, over the son's plans for the future. Then there's Colandrea 'Coco' Conners (the anti-Sam) who's changed her name to 'Coco' because Colandrea sounds too "Ghetto." She's trying to up her profile with a producer who's looking for actors in a potentially new reality show he's created; and showing up at a 'African- American themed' party (put on by the obnoxious University President's son, Kurt) is all part of her plan for upward social mobility. Insensitivity seems to run in the family, since Kurt's father, President Fletcher, declares that racism no longer exists in America, except maybe against Mexicans! But these one-liners are not enough to create, dynamic, multi-dimensional characters.

Finally, there's the ultimate outsider, the black and gay Lionel who angles his way in at the student satirical newspaper, Pastiche, in order to cover black student life on campus. Lionel doesn't fit in with the Black Student Union (they're not crazy about his homosexuality) and the white kids run their fingers through his Afro as if he's a child (one female student tells Lionel that he's black but only "technically").

The main plots in the film involve the University's desire to desegregate the traditional black residence hall which Sam is determined to prevent. Through some kind of computer chicanery, Sam is elected president of the residence hall, defeating Troy.

The climax occurs when Lionel flips out at the 'black-themed' party thrown by a gaggle of insensitive white students dressed up in black face. After trashing the room, including expensive audio equipment, Lionel and others are brought before an administrative hearing. Sam is tongue-lashed by the University President but the Residence Hall remains all-Black. Sam seems to have misgivings at getting too political and it appears she'll be moving off-campus next semester.

I'm not sure if Mr. Simien is more interested in proffering an angry lecture about race relations disguised as comedy or truly delivering a well-aimed social satire. Maybe he's achieved both. See Tessa Thompson for her performance alone—she steals the show. White people may feel uncomfortable with many of her characters' diatribes but considering that black people have been the subject of humiliating put-downs from whites, since the time of slavery, it's understandable that that a reaction formation would be in order: to maintain self-esteem and the upper hand in conversation, a vocabulary designed to facilitate a 'comeuppance' toward whites, appears predictable amongst many black people. On the other hand, assigning collective responsibility (particularly due to the "sins of the fathers"), is a strategy that might be self-satisfying but self-destructive at the same time.

Mr. Simien has written a clever script with many great lines. Nonetheless, in the future, he needs to pay more attention to developing his characters a bit more, along with upping the stakes, when it comes to the plot.