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Justin Simien
Tessa Thompson, Tyler James Williams, Brandon P Bell
Writing Credits:
Justin Simien

The lives of four black students at an Ivy League college.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 2/3/2015

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Justin Simien
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Justin Simien and Actors Tessa Thompson, Tyler James Williams, Teyonah Paris and Brandon Bell
• “Making of Dear White People” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Music Video
• “The More You Know (About Black People)” Featurette
• “Racism Insurance” Featurette
• “Dvrse App” Featurette
• “Leaked” Featurette
• Previews


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Dear White People [Blu-Ray] (2014)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 26, 2018)

A mix of comedy and drama with a provocative title, 2014’s Dear White People introduces us to Sam White (Tessa Thompson), a student at (fictitious) Ivy League entity Winchester University. Of African-American descent, she hosts a radio show called “Dear White People”, one that features her views on race.

Mainly to cause a ruckus, Sam runs to be president of her residence house – and she wins. This upsets the status quo and eventually puts Sam in the center of a number of controversies.

That synopsis oversimplifies People, mainly in regard to characters. While Sam does act as arguably the most prominent role here, the film expands to various others who seem nearly as important.

I watched the TV spinoff version of People before I saw the movie, and that may have been a mistake – at least in terms of how I view this production. Usually when a film gets adapted for the small screen, it loses something in the translation, but in this case, the TV People seems much more satisfying.

Because of this reverse viewing chronology, I have to wonder if I would’ve felt more positively toward the film edition of People had I seen it first. Perhaps its ideas and characters would’ve seemed fresher and livelier to me in that case.

Even if I try to divorce my feelings toward the movie from my impressions of the series, the cinematic People comes up short, as then-neophyte filmmaker Justin Simien displays glimmers of talent but he tends to bite off more than he can chew.

A lot of this impacts the movie’s story and characters, as they seem raw and without real definition. Honestly, much of People feels like a mix of social/political points cobbled together to make a semi-narrative, and it doesn’t really work.

At times, People scores some good points, but the script too often feels like a rough draft and not a finished product. The film really rambles and meanders, as it packs too many characters and too many events for one 108-minute movie.

In addition, Simien strongly wears his influences on his sleeve. During his commentary, Simien refers to a mix of films that impacted him, but I suspect the viewer will mainly latch onto the obvious Spike Lee comparisons.

People often feels like a conscious Spike Lee homage. It gives a particular nod toward School Daze and Do the Right Thing. This makes People feel more like an imitation than a new creation in its own right.

Simien’s lack of experience comes through with the uninventive photography as well. The movie seems awkwardly framed, as it lurches from one profile to another profile to a two-shot and lather, rinse, repeat. It’s not an amateurish-looking film overall, but it feels like the product of a novice.

On the positive side, the actors largely fare well, and as mentioned, the film boasts a smattering of interesting ideas/scenes. People simply lacks the experience and polish to make it a winning movie, especially compared to the better-realized TV version.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Dear White People appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a pleasant presentation.

Sharpness was almost always positive. A minor amount of softness crept into a couple of interiors, but otherwise the image remained tight and well-defined at all times.

I noticed no issues with shimmering or jaggies, and edge haloes failed to appear. Print flaws also failed to mar the presentation.

People went with an amber-influenced palette that used teal for some nighttime shots as well. Within the movie’s color design, the tones seemed solid.

Blacks were dark and deep, while shadows demonstrated nice smoothness. This was a consistently satisfying image.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix of People, it showed scope expected for a chatty drama. This meant a limited soundscape without much to make it stand out from the crowd.

The party shots added a bit of immersiveness, as did a few other exteriors, but those instances remained fairly infrequent. Most of the flick came with ambience and not much else.

Audio quality seemed good. Speech was distinctive and natural, without edginess or other issues.

Music seemed warm and lush, while effects showed nice clarity and accuracy. Again, nothing about the mix impressed, but it suited the story.

As we move to extras, we launch with two separate audio commentaries, the first of which features writer/director Justin Simien. He provides a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, autobiographical elements, cinematic influences, music, and interpretation.

While not a great nuts and bolts look at the film, Simien’s commentary manages a lot of insight. I like his nods toward the many films that impacted People, and he gives us a nice sociological view of the material. This becomes an engaging chat.

For the second commentary, we hear from Simien and actors Tessa Thompson, Tyler James Williams, Teyonah Parris and Brandon Bell. All five sit together for a running, screen-specific view of cast and performances, sets and locations, story and characters, and related domains.

I liked Simien on his own but this group chat works much less well. Despite the large number of participants, the track tends to drag semi-often and it lacks a lot of useful information. Though this never becomes a terrible chat, it fails to tell us much of value.

A featurette called The Making of Dear White People goes for 20 minutes, nine seconds and includes comments from Simien, Thompson, Williams, Bell, Parris, producers Angel Perez, Julia Lebedev, Lena Waithe and Ann Le and executive producer Stephanie Allain.

It covers the movie’s path to the screen, story/characters, cast and performances, Simien’s impact on the production, and artist Nikkolas Smith. The show’s view of the movie’s roots and development works well, but much of the remaining piece does little more than praise Simien, so it becomes a bit tedious as it goes.

Three Deleted Scenes fill a total of two minutes, 36 seconds. The first shows the integration of new white residents into Armstrong-Parker, while the second gives us some bonding between Troy and Lionel and the third reveals more of Coco’s reality show. All three seem interesting but none stand out as essential.

We also find a collection of Outtakes. This reel runs five minutes, eight seconds and brings a pretty standard collection of goofs and giggles. It’s pretty forgettable.

Next comes a music video for “Get Your Life” by Caught a Ghost. Directed by Simien, the video features the cast of People.

Those factors make the video more intriguing than most, but it never actually becomes all that interesting. The song leaves me cold as well.

A few quirky clips follow. The More You Know (About Black People takes up five minutes, nine seconds and delivers 10 comedic comments about black stereotypes. They’re amusing.

With the two-minute, 57-second Racism Insurance, we see three fake commercials that parody State Farm promos. Like “More You Know”, these offer fun moments.

DVRSE App: Black Friends When You Need Them takes up two minutes, 56 seconds. It promotes an app that adds black people to white folks’ photos to make them more “interesting”. It’s another entertaining reel.

Lastly, Leaked: Banned Winchester U Diversity occupies two minutes, 21 seconds. It shows Winchester’s attempts to promote itself as ethnically broad. This feels like the least interesting of the bunch.

The disc opens with ads for Addicted, Frankie & Alice, and Middle of Nowhere. No trailer for People appears here.

As a debut film, Dear White People shows Justin Simien’s potential, but as a finished product, it lacks coherence and polish. While the movie comes with a mix of lively scenes, the end result fails to come together. The Blu-ray boasts solid picture quality along with adequate audio and a generally good set of supplements. Truth be told, the TV version of People becomes the superior take on this material.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
0 3:
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