Crowd Pleasing Social Thriller and a Marvelously Audacious Directorial Debut from Jordan Peele: Meet the Parents meets Stepford Wives meets Rosemary’s Baby with a hint of Being John Malkovich
Get Out is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele of Key and Peele, one half of Comedy Central’s beloved skit show, and I was more than excited for this film to come out in France two months later than its initial release. This was Peele’s passion project and it covers similar territory as the Key and Peele show in regards to the social satire, but this film is completely separable and approached uniquely with precision; it is one of the strongest and most confident directorial debuts in years. The story revolves around an interracial couple in your usual but heightened version of Meet the Parents scenario where our main character Chris played by Daniel Kaluuya, notable roles include Black Mirror and Sicario, is the black boyfriend who is meeting his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend. Chris is a renowned photographer and he is dating Rose played by Allison Williams from HBO’s Girls; from the start of the film we see their loving relationship in the city and they’ve been together for 5 months and it’s time to take the next big step and meet the parents except that Chris is a little more than skeptical since Rose hasn’t told her parents that she has a black boyfriend which he feels should perhaps be mentioned. She reassures him that her parents are liberals and that they’re just her embarrassing parents. Before we get into the film, we have to talk about the chilling opening scene where a black character gets lost in a white suburban neighborhood and is abducted by a masked driver and it is so expertly done and unforgettable; it reminded me of the opening scene in Zodiac especially with its creepy music choice, Run Rabbit Run, and it already had me intrigued three minutes into the film.
On their drive to her parents, they hit a deer and we experience the first racial encounter where a cop asks for Chris’ ID even though he wasn’t driving; Chris is willing to cooperate and show his ID but Rose who is baffled by the whole ordeal defends him. There is a lot foreshadowing going on with the deer they hit prior to the cop confrontation that has to do with Chris’ past that is cleverly woven throughout the film. He finally meets the Armitrage family who are almost overwhelmingly welcoming and excited to have Chris over. The father is a neurosurgeon played by Bradley Whitford who feels the need to state that he would have voted for Obama a third time if he could and that he is the best president of his lifetime so that Chris can feel at ease and makes awkward remarks like “this thang” or “my man” the first time he sees him. The mother is a therapist and is played by one of my favorite actresses Catherine Keener and she is more embarrassed by her husband’s straightforward and awkward remarks to Chris, the only thing she doesn’t like is that Chris is a smoker. There is something off however, both the groundskeeper and the maid are black and strangely robotic and feel removed from the modern world. The father explains to Chris that they were his parent’s caretakers before they passed and that he couldn’t bare to let them go because they were a part of the family. Chris just tolerates the unconsciously inappropriate things said to him or laughs it off because it’s all about getting through the weekend for him; nothing really surprises him initially until things take a sinister turn and strange things start happening all around him. This film explores a different form of racism that we haven’t seen before on screen apart from maybe FX’s Atlanta, by looking at progressive liberals who love the black culture and can be unconsciously racist by overlooking the individual and only seeing him in the bigger context of being black in America. This is what happens at a party the Armitrages throw where Chris becomes something of an exhibit where older white couples keep trying to identify him for his black traits or stereotypes; one old man talks about how he loves Tiger Woods and asks to see Chris’ stance while another man comments blatantly that black is in fashion, it’s the norm. These scenes remind me of the last scene in Rosemary’s Baby where the cult assemble and there is an abundance of old and creepy people. Peele is avoiding the usual horror tropes of an expendable black character mostly dying before any other character in a horror film by making Chris the central character which makes it possible for the audience to experience everything he is experiencing. The script is intelligent and funny and knows its audience well enough to toy with our sensibilities and even has a character who is essentially every audience member watching this film. This character is Rod, Chris’ best friend who is a TSA agent, played by Lil Rey Howery and he is the voice of reason and the comic relief in the film who keeps warning Chris not to go to her parents’ from the beginning. All the infuriating and frustrating things one tends to say while watching a horror film, Rod says it all; he speaks for the audience and he was a scene stealer every time he was on-screen and he also single handedly made being a TSA agent as cool and exciting as being a secret agent.
Keith Stanfield plays Logan who is the only other black person at this party, but Chris who was hoping he had run into someone who he could relate to at this party finds that Logan is as far removed as the Armitrages’ caretakers. Rod becomes his escape from the house as he is keen to call him and tell him every strange thing he’s noticing in the house. The center of the film where there is a tonal shift is the first night where Chris goes out for a smoke in the middle of the night and sees the caretakers behaving oddly and doing things that you wouldn’t typically do this late at night; he is caught off guard by the mother who tries to have a one on one talk with him about his smoking problem. At an earlier uncomfortable dinner scene the father casually suggests that his wife help snap him out of his smoking habit as she had done the same for him. This was a clever way to fit in hypnotism into the plot and things take a turn for the worst as the movie progresses as there is a sinister master plan that is so absurd and brilliant at the same time and this is all Jordan Peele’s doing. This film could have gone terribly, terribly wrong under a different director, but not only does it carefully balance the social message with light humor but it also manages to be addictively entertaining at the same time. I have seen the film twice now and it’s even better and a different viewing experience the second time around when you know everything that happens and can focus on the subtle ways Peele hints at certain characters’ motives. There is only one way to see this film and it is in a cinema where you see the whole audience reacting as one. It had a hint of Being John Malkovich in the third act and I wonder if Peele cast Catherine Keener intentionally as she plays the irresistible Maxine in Being John Malkovich. The acting is amazing all across the board especially the central performance by Daniel Kaluuya who brings so much raw emotion into the role. Jordan Peele is such a promising director and he has already made his masterpiece right off the bat in this social thriller as he refers to it. I had faith in the film after I saw an interview of him talking about his influences which included Rosemary’s Baby and Stepford Wives. He says he’ll keep making more social thrillers and we can’t wait because this film has no right to be as good as it is; it is a modern classic. (10/10)
The main theme song in the film which is in Swahili fits the movie so perfectly and is so eerie you can feel the ancestor spirits the song refers to [“listen to your ancestors, get out”] as it is blasting in the cinema; it plays in the opening and closing sequence of the film. There is also a great inclusion of Childish Gambino’s Red Bone from his last album Awaken, My Love. [STAY WOKE!]