"DEAR White People" is a movie that grew out of a popular Twitter feed, though it's anything but shallow.
It's a canny, complex and funny campus comedy movie that views race through the eyes of the millennial generation (its black characters seem equally tired of D.W. Griffith and Tyler Perry) - writer-director Justin Simien based the movie on his experiences as a black man attending a mostly white college.
The movie is not part of some mythical post-racial America, by any means, but it's happy to embrace the complexities of racial identity.
Case in point: Main character Sam (Tessa Thompson) is the campus firebrand - an edgy host of a provocative radio show, "Dear White People," that challenges the complacency of the white student body. She's biracial, and her boyfriend is white, a fact she does not mention on the air, or to her friends.
The more the black students embrace her show, the more pressure she feels to conform to her own media image, the more she wonders if she should have a black boyfriend, and we wonder whether race is defining or distorting her thinking.
As her star rises among black students, she displaces the school's anointed black student body leader - a central casting high-achieving, square-jawed fellow (Brandon Bell), who himself has a white girlfriend and is trying to ingratiate himself with a white fraternity.
Everyone makes barbed but (mostly) friendly jokes about these racial/interracial circumstances. Nearly everyone. No one seems eager to befriend the nerdy Lionel (Tyler James Williams) who is black and gay, and without a friend on campus, save for the editor of the school newspaper, who may be using him to get an expose on Sam.
All of these subplots and more come to a head the evening of a fraternity party when white students, responding clumsily to Sam's "Dear White People" jabs, decide to stage a hip-hop Halloween party and pretend to be black.
Seemed like a good idea when we were all playing beer pong, but now, looking at it on CNN via YouTube, well . . .
Simien throws a lot of plates in the air here, and in general keeps most of them from crashing to the floor. When they do break, the noise is usually muffled by the laughter coming from his many choice wisecracks.