Synopsis: A young African-American man visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s mysterious family estate. (Source)
It’s a firm belief of mine that comedy is just another way of turning horror and tragedy into something digestible. If there’s one person who understands this idea, it’s writer/director/comedian Jordan Peele, who’s latest film, Get Out, is a culmination of our country’s most normalized sins. From its juicy premise, to that genius ending, Peele systematically deconstructs hard truths through wild satire, exposing things our society has thrown under the rug for too long. The result is a truly terrifying film that manages to be accessible and playful, yet with a sting that’s inescapable. This is the type of film that shows us just how cathartic and powerful the medium can be, and it’s a singular portrait of the African American experience that can’t be ignored any longer.
Things start of innocently enough. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) have been dating for a few months, and now Rose wants Chris to meet her parents. Though he’s happy enough to make the trip, Chris is hesitant that the color of his skin may be an issue to her affluent, white parents. Rose assures him that this isn’t an issue and they’re off. Chris initially seems to hit it off with Rose’s parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), but things take a turn when he discovers that they have two black servants. The pair in question seem to act a bit aloof and are strangely unreceptive, and other red flags occur after Missy, a hypno psychiatrist, introduces Chris to her work in a way that isn’t forthcoming. Soon enough, a series of events snowball into something more sinister, and Daniel finds himself in a fight for his life.
Peele’s film is immensely satisfying because it works on a number of levels. You can either read the film as a bizarre thriller that delights in its eccentricity, but on a deeper level, it’s one that explores the damaging breadth of institutional and learned racism, outdated social norms and specifically, the way that African Americans are treated, still being viewed differently than any other race. Each scene serves as a microcosm of heady social commentary, building tension through awkward interactions that hide insidious implications, while using humor to punctuate a string of shocking revelations. On a genre level, the story toys with expectation and worn tropes, always subverting it in ways that feel fresh and emotionally earned. Ultimately, the less said the better, but what’s undeniable is Peele’s handle of tone, sobering message and psychological thrills, resulting in an experience that’s infectious, but also carries a strong sense of purpose.
The performances are indispensable to Peele’s writing and direction, giving us memorable characters who shoot through and make the story stick. Headlining the entire thing, Daniel Kaluuya shines as the unassuming, but sharp Chris. Kaluuya is relatable throughout, making the film’s larger-than-life version of the truth cut by creating someone we genuinely care for. Without him, none of the film’s emotion works, and he carries the everything on his back with ease. As Rose, Allison Williams supports Kaluuya with a warmth and playfulness that seems fitting. Her character takes some turns, and she pulls them off in ways we don’t expect. As Rose’s parents, Dean and Missy, Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener ooze with insidious menace. They deliver word with confidence and warmth, but you can feel that something’s off. Both are knockouts. Lastly, as Dean and Missy’s helpers, Walter and Georgina, Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel ain’t no slouch. Even with such small roles, the two deliver nuanced characters with idiosyncrasies and hidden pain.
Get Out is a super dense film, but in the best way. Rather than say much more, all I want to do is urge everyone to go out and see it. Too often, the genre and films in general are experiences that are easy to walk away from. Peele’s latest work is the opposite, one that begs us to scrutinize everything we’re seeing, and engage in healthy conversation amidst a story that really kicks. One can only hope the film leads to more like it, and that Peele continues to lend his talents to the genre in more ways than one. This will be one of the best horror films of the year, and ironically, more truth than fiction.