I didn’t expect much of this movie, really; I thought the trailer looked pretty bad and it’s really hard to make a satire about race that isn’t either strident or self-righteous. But Simien has pulled off a real masterpiece here. People have called this film a comedy and there are certainly some really funny scenes and lines, but I’d put it more firmly in the drama category. Anyway, it follows a large ensemble of characters at an Ivy League college as they attempt to navigate the thorny world of race relations in the modern world. And the film really does some great character work; every character is interesting and, ultimately, everyone is much deeper than they originally appear to be. At first, the characters all appear to be kind of stock characters, but even the more repugnant characters end up having more depth than you’d expect. And the film also isn’t particularly interested in answers; the film doesn’t, at the end of the day, tell you who was right in the film and who was wrong. You just have to kind of live with all the different perspectives on race and think about them all and figure out where you stand, which is essentially the thing you want a movie like this to do. But this all sounds very much like it’s a film of ideas, and it definitely is, but it all comes back to those characters and the moral dilemmas many of them face over the course of the film – and ultimately, it was those stories, the stories of those people trying to simply figure out what the right thing to do is, that really made the film work so incredibly well for me. Anyway, Simien is now a writer-director that I’m really interested in; can’t wait to see what he does next. Personally, I found this one to be an absolute masterpiece. Highly recommended. 4 stars.
tl;dr – smart, witty movie about race relations is thought-provoking, engaging and features a large ensemble of very well-written, fascinating characters. 4 stars.