Race relations are at the epicenter of first time director Justin Simien’s Dear White People which tracks the lives of four black students in an Ivy League college who have variable opinions and subsequent backed actions on the controversial subject.
Tyler James Williams plays Lionel Higgins, a black writer ostracized from both the black and white college communities. Tessa Thompson plays Samantha White, a radio host and figurehead for the black movement on campus. Tyonah Parris is Colandrea Conners, a black student who feels more comfortable with her white counterparts. And Brandon P Bell plays Troy, a silver-spooned socialite student who lives in the shadow of his Dean father played by Dennis Haysbert.
Each one of these unique and brilliantly crafted characters weave through racial hot topics that impact their everyday schedule. All featured characters have hints of stereotypical behavior but none of the cast become caricatures of their culture as is prominent in other black focused comedies such as Friday or any of the Tyler Perry Medea films.
Director Justin Simien was also responsible for the screenplay that is sharp, single-edged and thought provoking. The dialogue is the shrillest we have encountered in many years and so intelligently walks the racial tightrope theme as to leave Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing as an inferior companion piece in its wake.
The film climaxes with a Halloween party thrown and attended to by the white population of the college but with a black culture theme. Costumes that include black face, gangster stylings and faux-afros
abound in a tasteless event that ultimately leads to confrontation.
Dear White People however does not resort to conventional plot devices in a half ditched effort to pile drama. There are no guns, no large scale brawls and no fashion designs that would stand out of the
ordinary. Instead, Dear White People gets its message across with a simple tone of showcasing black Americans in their average daily routines amongst white and other cultures. The film so subtly goes about its business without preaching or insulting what would likely be a highly educated target audience. Its multi-colored layers are perfectly laid without the thickness of excess thus creating an exceptional film on racial observance from individuals that long for acceptance in any colored crowd.