Written and Directed by Jordan Peele | 103 min
A cunning amalgam of horror and satire, comedian Peele has delivered an especially satisfying debut feature film. It manages to poke at a lot of the cliches of white liberal America—that some may call unacknowledged truths, especially the barely repressed racism of the wealthy suburban caucasian—while still delivering a menu of solid jumps, reversals, and surprises.
We start on a tree-lined street in a comfortable-looking suburban neighbourhood, where a black man (Lakeith Stanfield) walking on the sidewalk is beaten and thrown into the back of a Porsche. If you needed any indication of where this is going.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, a British actor you might recognize if you’re a Black Mirror fan, who was also in Sicario) is a photographer, an African American, and very much in love with white-as-the-driven-snow Rose (Allison Williams of Girls). He’s concerned about meeting her parents, but she insists they’re as liberal as they come, that they’d have voted for Obama a third time if they could. Chris and Rose drive from the city out to visit the parental units—the perfectly cast Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford—a neurosurgeon and psychiatrist who live pretty high on the hog. They have two black servants (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel) who seem strangely dopey. Maybe they’re hypnotized, which we learn is one of Rose’s mother’s techniques for helping her patients.
The delicious awkwardness of Chris and his interactions with Rose’s parents and their friends is hilarious, and makes for a terrific suspense builder. It’s hard to deny the sharp, targeted cultural ribbing going on here, and it doesn’t stop with Rose and her family–including a douchey brother, played by Caleb Landry Jones: Chris also has an outrageous African American pal back in the city, played by LilRel Howery, offering comedy relief with his conspiracy theories about those white folks and their interests in sex slavery.
Kaluuya is a wonderfully emotive actor, and we definitely see all this weirdness through his eyes and lens. If you ever had any misconception of what it must be like to be African American spending time with so-called progressive white people who actually have no idea what a black person goes through, Get Out clears all that up. By the film’s end I was a little reminded of Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation where every single white person we come upon is irredeemably evil. I’m not complaining, mind you—it’s a refreshing flip. What’s actually going on with this family proves to be a lot more outrageous—and frankly, silly—than other slow-build suspense chillers I could mention, and the finale feels a little bit of a sop to those looking for a happy ending, where it could instead have been a real kick in the teeth. Still, it never stops being fun.
Get Out compares favourably with another social issue creepfest with declarative title, It Follows. I hope this is a trend.