Satire is one of the toughest genres to tackle across any medium. Simien, as a first-time feature writer/director, proves up to the challenge. Dear White People is razor sharp, provocative in the right ways, and you can’t do much besides applaud the effort. Sure, the ending is a bit much, which is unfortunate since the film’s finale packs a sucker punch with each stereotype tossed on screen, and is cut a little short with the tongue-in-cheek. The film offers itself as a mirror, and it uses its four main characters - all walking contradictions - beautifully.
But why four? It may seem an odd complaint, but the film is held back in much the same way it’s propelled forward. Simien seems unsure of himself, cramming all of his ideas into one film, when it could have been so much better had he just worked one idea to completion. You can feel halfway through that Simien is too loyal to his leads, really only able to offer interesting character arcs for two (Lionel and Sam) while the other two get lost in the fray. It’s a bold film, but without one central character to latch onto, the film ends up being a beautiful collection of ideas, with moments of taut irony, forced into a structure that allows for too much downtime.
That was the day I stopped believing in the wild ardor of things. Perhaps in love, as well. That kind of love. The love in books and films. The love that tells us to abandon our lives and plans, all for one brief touch of Venus. So often we fail at that kind of love. The world just seems too fragile a place for it. And of every other kind, life remains full. Perhaps it’s just we who are too fragile.