Writer & Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Stephen Root.
As the opening credits roll, Get Out already is sending the audience a message. Before we see a single character, the camera pans on a seemingly empty house as Childish Gambino’s song “Redbone” plays. Aside from being a fantastic tune, if one listens carefully to the lyrics, it is a warning to viewers: “stay woke!” This warning has two meanings, stay awake, which is directed at both the audience and the protagonist of the film, but also the more modern definition, which means to be aware and conscious of social injustice, of privilege, of all the ways in which society benefits some while leaving others in the cold. Get Out is a new kind of horror film, one that isn’t afraid to grapple with uncomfortable topics and issues, one that refuses to leave its commentary implied or hinted at, instead choosing to confront issues head on, loudly, unapologetically.
Andre (Daniel Kaluuya, Black Mirror) is about to leave for the weekend to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams, Girls) parents. Andre asks Rose if she has told her parents that she is dating a black man, to which she responds that she hasn’t, following it up with a few jokes, pointing out the unnecessary need to do so: her parents are progressive, they voted for Obama both times, they’re cool and down and hip and all that. So the couple makes its way for upstate New York, away from the comfortable diversity of NYC, into whiteville, much to the alarm of Andre’s friend Rod, the voice of reason and the literal embodiment of the crowd screaming at the movie theater in every horror movie ever.
At the house, Andre meets Rose’s parents Dean (Bradley Whitford, The West Wing) and Missy (Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich), who don’t waste any time and try to constantly reassure him that they are cool, hip, modern parents who are incredibly and totally at ease with the fact that their daughter is dating a man of another race. They are trying incredibly hard, which only makes Andre more uncomfortable. Add the fact that the only two people of color in sight are the employees, whose behavior is bizarre to say the least, and Andre is definitely in for some trouble.
The film borrows heavily from The Stepford Wives, transposing the gender commentary for one based on race. Andre is admired for his body, his strength, and even the size of his member and his stamina are alluded to. As uncomfortable as it is to witness these scenes, it is obvious what Jordan Peele, the movie’s writer and director, is stating. We are both reminded of the way slaves were auctioned off for their physical prowess, as well as the fact that all too often the only way that black people in America are seen in a good light is when their accomplishments are tied to their physical abilities, most often in the world of sports; subtly implying that intelligence or mental abilities are not as common. Fetishization of the black body is definitely a recurring theme, and one treated well.
The film is also an indictment of the well meaning white person who tries too hard, stating that perhaps the overeagerness of some white people to prove and be praised for their lack of bigotry actually betrays an underlying and troubling racism. A truly accepting person doesn’t go out of their way or feel the need to prove themselves, they simply treat people as equals while acknowledging their privilege. When someone protests too much, usually there’s a reason, and that reason ain’t pretty.
I was impressed with Peele’s eye for detail and his ability to shoot an overall good horror film. This marks the comedic actor’s directorial debut, and it shows that he has a strong voice and ability to combine a high octane action filled genre film with social commentary that provides a fresh take on an otherwise tired trope. Even though the film is imperfect and lagging in the middle, the cast is strong, as is the overall effort and final outcome. Definitely worth watching.