The following is a review of Get Out – The directorial debut for Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele’s Get Out is basically a horror movie version of Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?. Peele’s debut tells the story of an African-American man, Chris (played by Daniel Kaluuya), who is spending the weekend with – and meeting – his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time.
His girlfriend, Rose (played by Allison Williams), assures him that while she hasn’t told her parents that he isn’t white, her parents are by no means racist. In fact, as she – as well as her father later – puts it: they would’ve voted to give Obama a third term as President of the United States if given the option. However, when Chris meets her parents he quickly senses how odd and awkward they’re being, and while it’s harmless at first, he soon starts questioning why the only other black people in the vicinity are acting strangely. Perhaps these ‘harmless’ liberals aren’t as open-minded as Rose thinks they are.
I mostly know Allison Williams – who plays Chris’ girlfriend Rose in Get Out – as the extremely self-obsessed Marnie in HBO’s Girls. Williams gets to play something rather different here. Early on in the film, Rose shows that she is willing to stand up for her boyfriend to authorities and is seemingly shocked to see how her parents react to meeting her boyfriend.
Rose’s father is played by Bradley Whitford, and his character, Dean, comes across as the kind of person who is always trying to fit in. He is a neurosurgeon whose own father once lost a spot at the Olympic Games to Jesse Owens, a historically famous African-American runner. Dean, at one point in the film, awkwardly mentions to Chris that Obama was ‘the best President in his lifetime.’ Rose’s mother is played by Catherine Keener, and her character may actually be the scariest character in the film. Some of the scenes she shares with Kaluuya are so scary and tense, and you quickly get the idea that you don’t want to be alone in a room with her.
The film’s characters are rooted in reality, but they are also – obviously – taken to an extreme and absurd level that works for the film. Although the film isn’t wholly unpredictable, it is entertaining from start to finish. While Allison Williams and Catherine Keener are both very good in the film, the one performance that we should talk about is Daniel Kaluuya’s outstanding performance as ‘Chris.’ There can be no doubt that ‘Chris’ is Daniel Kaluuya’s breakthrough role. The magnetic and likable Kaluuya is particularly great in a transfixing and haunting hypnosis scene.
He first gained fame from his appearances and work on the British teen drama Skins (a show that pretty much has the look of a British talent gold mine), of which I was once a big fan. He has since gotten more time on screen with his appearance in one of Black Mirror‘s great episodes, as well as Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario. But he really gets to shine in Peele’s Get Out. Which brings me to Rod. Rod, a TSA officer, is Chris’ best friend who takes care of Chris’ dog while our protagonist is away with Rose. Rod is played by comedian Lil Rel Howery in the film. Howery adds much-needed humor to a supremely strange horror film, and, to an extent, also acts as the audience surrogate. Howery steals every scene he is in Get Out, and I loved what he added to the film.
I only have one minor problem with the film. In the second half of the film, Chris just wants to get back home, as he doesn’t feel particularly safe. During these scenes, Chris discovers some photos, and those photos essentially ruin what happens in the very next scene. Peele tips his hand here, but it doesn’t really hurt the film all that much.
Get Out is a social horror film set in the wake of a so-called ‘post-racial America’ made by a filmmaker who clearly has his finger on America’s ‘pulse’. Peele expresses that by presenting us with a film that points the finger back at a white stereotype that isn’t normally being shown in this particular light in mainstream films. These people aren’t rednecks. They are white and wealthy liberal Americans. By expressing a strong intention and desire to make a person of another race feel welcome, they also, perhaps unintentionally, highlight their own misunderstandings.
It is a smart new horror film made by a filmmaker that confidently moves from comedy to horror with ease — both in his career and in this film — and who with Get Out manages to touch upon issues of racism and political correctness. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out is a sharp and smart social horror film about racial tension that manages to properly point out the way a person of an underrepresented group may feel like the ‘elephant in the room.’ Although it is a horror film, Peele manages to add the exact right touch of humor to the film, thus making it one of the more entertaining horror films to watch. Get Out is one of the best directorial debuts I’ve ever seen.
10 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.