Release Date: February 24th, 2017
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Directed by: Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel
Three things surprised me about Get Out: This was Jordan Peele’s directorial debut (he seems well-seasoned); that he calls white people out so directly (we’ll get to that); and that it’s taken Allison Williams this long to find the role she was born to play (a sociopath who eats a bowl of dry cereal while taking bird-like sips from a glass of milk through a straw).
My primary exposure to Peele was through his work with Keegan-Michael Key. A funny guy who asks the important questions (like why can self-proclaimed enlightened white people be so damn annoying?) but could he pull off a good horror movie? Couple that with my contentious relationship with Blumhouse Productions,* and you’ll understand why this review is coming so long after the movie released. Peele took a lot of risks in this movie that worked very well.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) has been dating Rose (Allison Williams) when she invites him to meet her parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) at their home in upstate New York. The Armitages go out of their way to seem like a normal white family with Mrs. as a psychiatrist, Mr. as a neurosurgeon, and brother (Caleb Landry Jones) as a lacrosse-playing college guy. And oh-what-a-surprise, they turn out to be hosting a party while Rose and Chris are there with all their well-to-do friends. When we realize that the event is less party, more auction (with Chris on the block), Get Out goes from “creepy” to “full-on horror”.
Often when RACISM is discussed, it’s in-your-face violence, aggression, or comments but where Get Out’s strengths really lie are in calling out microaggressions that, to be clear, are still racist: Not understanding why it’s important to tell your white parents that you’re dating a black man when they live in rural upstate NY (I know, I grew up there); telling a black man you’ve just met that you would’ve voted for Barack Obama for a third term; saying he’s built for athleticism and feeling his arm; explaining that pale skin is out and dark is in, you get the point. The only character that meets the definition of RACIST is maybe the police officer who asks for Chris’s ID after Rose hits a deer with her car where he was the passenger, whereas the other well-intentioned characters who end up being the film’s villains think they’re being nice, relatable, and worst of all, inclusive.
From a production stand point, there are many stand-out moments: The imagery of Chris taking a step off the pavement and into the wilderness; when they hit the deer; the construction and visuals of “The Sunken Place”; the quick-turn run of Walter the groundskeeper (Marcus Henderson); the overall character development of Georgina the housekeeper (Betty Gabriel) and Marcus; the pacing and back-and-forth between suspense and humor through Lil Rel Howery’s character; Allison Williams being strangled and smiling after taking a gut shot. This film gave us so much more than a good story.
What bothered me (slightly) is the typical Blumhouse-ish resolution that tried to add a gross-out factor but didn’t add anything to the plot. The medical aspect could’ve been cut for a better (read: longer, more in-depth) resolution between Chris and the Armitages.
Other horror movies have tried the socially conscious approach (The Purge) but Get Out is ultimately successful in showing us that white people’s good intentions towards the black community are at best annoying and at worst, life threatening.
*How many shitty Paranormal Activity movies were there? All of them. The Belko Experiment? Haven’t we already seen that in Battle Royale or The Hunger Games? Jem and the Holograms? So many forgettably terrible movies. Insidious? Those are fine. The Purge? Some good parts. I loved Oculus and Unfriended. In short: Their movies are hit-or-miss with me and there’s not in-between.