Jordan Peele’s first effort as a writer/director fairly simmers with rage – not at the clichéd southern-fried racist rednecks of most horror movies that have discrimination at their root, but at white liberals who have all the right friends and say all the right things (or what they think are the right things).
Couched in the outwardly simple tale of a girl taking her boyfriend home to meet her parents, Get Out is the filmic equivalent of Muhammad Ali’s ‘float like a butterfly; sting like a bee.’
Get Out opens with what seems like a random bit of racial violence as a black man is tased and dumped in the truck of a car on a quiet suburban street.
When we meet them, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, The Fades, Sicario) is a bit nervous about meeting his girlfriend Rose Armitage’s (Allison Williams, Girls, Peter Pan Live!) parents, a nerve-wracking experience under regular circumstances but since he’s black and she’s white – and she hasn’t told them he’s black – there’s a bit more reason for him to be a bit on edge.
He isn’t so nervous that he hasn’t found a sitter for the couple’s dog – a guy named Rod (Lil Red Howery). Rod works for the TSA and is something of a conspiracy theory fan – but something more than merely comic relief.
Anyroad, when the couple arrive at the family home, her parents – Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) – seem nice, though Dean is perhaps a bit overtly trying to get Chris to warm up to him (he insists he would have voted for Obama a third time had it been possible).
Missy, gathering that Chris is a smoker, volunteers to cure him via hypnosis (she’s a psychiatrist), but he’d rather not go there.
Chris is a bit unsettled by the slightly odd behavior of the family’s groundskeeper, Walter (Marcus Henderson, Whiplash, Pete’s Dragon) and maid, Georgina (Betty Gabriel), too – though Rose seems blissfully unaware (she does apologize to Chris about her parents being a little too…).
Apparently, Chris and Rose have arrived on the weekend of an annual party and, before you know it, the house and yard are filled with people – all but one of whom have something obvious in common. The one being another black man who is also more than a bit off (he has no idea, for example, what a fist bump is…).
Dean and Missy’s friends all seem gregarious enough, but interspersed with their chatter there are comments about Chris’ physique – Rose’s brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landy Jones, X-Men: First Class, War on Everyone) suggests he’d be a ‘beast in a fight’ – and one man goes so far as to say that ‘Black is in fashion!’
To say anything more would be impossible without serious spoiler territory.
Get Out is well plotted and Peele directs with both sledgehammer force and incredible subtlety when required – the opening act of violence as an example of the former; the one real jump moment that is earned because it shouldn’t as an example of the latter.
The film looks good – Peele shows some lovely tableaux that encompass various areas at the party, and places the opening violence within a nearly motionless frame. He gets some extremely lovely shots of the land surround Dean and Missy’s home – putting the tension and ensuing Big Finish in sharp relief.
If he goes a little bit over-the-top in the film’s climax, it’s because all the creepiness we’ve experienced requires a payoff that’s so big and twisted that, in its key moments, all the perceived White liberal racism becomes actions rather than carefully modulated conversations.
To this end, there’s a good reason that he also cleverly sets up the finale with an encounter on the road to the Armitage home. (Yes, he even plays to the horror trope that when it seems like it’s over, it’s not over – and, like the rest of the film, he does it incredibly well.)
Get Out is smart, witty, original and – no surprise given Peele’s last gig – funny on a number of levels. It is the rare horror film that wouldn’t merely benefit from a second viewing, it practically screams for one.
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