Dear White People
Writer-director Justin Simien's impassioned but wishy washy Dear White People follows four black students at a fictional Ivy League college as they struggle to reconcile their personal and racial identities. Over the course of a semester, a simple housing dispute turns into a campus-wide conflict that forces people to choose sides, even against their nature, and finally erupts into a racially charged riot. With its brash and topical take on black college life, interracial love, and race riots, Dear White People has drawn comparisons to Spike Lee's 1980s-era output. That's valid if simplistic, but the film's self-righteous leanings and easy targets make it play more like the love child of Higher Learning and PCU. Simien shoots satirical buckshot, missing as often as he hits, and the clunky framing device is pure amateur hour, yet he also displays an attention to character complexity that shows genuine promise.