It’s always fun to see an established talent step out of their comfort zone. That’s exactly what Jordan Peele – most closely associated with the comedy duo of Key and Peele, along with Keegan Michael Key – has done with Get Out. Stepping far away from his comedic safe zone, Peele takes the reigns as both writer and director to dive head-first into a straight-up horror film. But it’s not “just” horror; much like his comedy, it’s topical horror, confronting the theme of racial bias head on underneath the guise of suspense and entertainment.
For those unfamiliar with the premise of Get Out, a young interracial couple, Chris and Rose (Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams), take a road trip to visit Rose’s rich, white parents, the Armitages. Chris is naturally nervous when he discovers that Rose has yet to inform them that he is black and, when they arrive, though all appears well on the surface, things feel off, just underneath. I’ll leave it at that. The marketing department did a great job of not giving anything away while also not misrepresenting the picture, and I’m not about to undo all of their tremendous work. Great job, Get Out‘s marketing department!
If my screening is any indication, people are going to turn out for this one. I’m glad that folks are willing to give Peele a chance to do something different. Usually, modern audiences shut that kind of thing down, right at the start. Can you imagine what the Internet reaction would be in 2017 if the director of a popular teen coming-of-age comedy was given full reign to bring his own personal space opera to life? Well, Star Wars turned out okay, didn’t it? The fact is that the people who do this for a living have all sorts of varied interests and ideas and it’s great when they get to flex their creative muscles, a bit, as Peele does, here.
That’s not to suggest that Get Out is utterly devoid of comedy. There are laughs sprinkled throughout the picture, with most of them coming from LilRel Howery. Howery plays Chris’s friend Rod, who stays in touch with Chris throughout the course of Chris’s trip. Rod was probably my favorite character, thanks to Howery’s perfect delivery and the genuineness and sincerity of Rod’s dedication to his friend (and to his own career choice).
Outside of Rod, the film is almost strictly a suspense thriller. And it works. The tension builds gradually and organically over the course of the movie. Events play out at a believable pace and the narrative never goes on hiatus or feels like it’s killing time. Each scene and each interaction carries significance to the overall story, as well as serves the purpose of peeling back one more layer and providing insight into what exactly is going on at the Armitage Estate.
So, yes, the film is also a mystery. This is the area where I feel the film could use a little strengthening. The mystery isn’t poorly executed, but – even though he is smack in the middle of some overt weirdness and knows he’s in some sort of danger – Chris never takes a proactive role in trying to determine exactly what said danger is. He’s obviously concerned for his own wellbeing, but he simultaneously seems content to sit back and continue to allow events to play out as they will, and then react to them. That didn’t feel quite right to me and it also creates a bit of a disconnect from the mystery component of the film. Had Chris began his own secret investigation and started trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, not only would he have come across as being a bit stronger as a character, but audience engagement would likely be elevated, as well. The film is engaging as it is. But I would rate that level of engagement at about a 7.5, when I was hoping for a 9.
That’s my only gripe, though. I already discussed Howery, but the rest of the cast deserves a mention, in addition. Kaluuya and Williams are both excellent as the leads. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are delightfully disturbing as Rose’s parents. But Betty Gabriel is the scene stealer as Georgina. She really only gets one instance to shine, but she takes full advantage of it and delivers a knockout moment that serves as my choice for the most memorable in the entire film.
On top of all of that, Get Out obviously serves as a metaphor for the ongoing racial divide in our current American culture. This film is essentially aimed at racist people who claim they aren’t racist or even, in some cases, don’t realize that they’re racist. I’d like to think that many of those people will see this film and have some grand, life-changing epiphany about how white privilege continues to marginalize black people and their standing in society, but that sadly isn’t likely to happen. I doubt many of those people will even see the film and, if they do, they’ll rationalize that they aren’t guilty of that sort of mindset or that white privilege doesn’t exist. Either way, that extra layer to the film is there, but it’s not necessary to pick up on it to enjoy the movie. But, if one doesn’t pick up on it, doesn’t that succinctly make the film’s point?
Get Out provides a fun, tension-filled filmgoing experience that projects a relevant message while also being entertaining. The film is a good opportunity to get people who normally wouldn’t see the world from the perspective of the black experience to have that explained to them in a way that they might find unassuming . . . if they go to see the film, at all. I do wish the movie had a different title, as “Get Out” doesn’t exactly scream for attention or stand out in any way, whatsoever. But I don’t have any better suggestions, so I’ll shut up about that, now. Instead, I’ll just say that the film is absolutely worth the time and money of anyone who likes thrillers, is invested in the message, or is interested to see a promising young talent in Jordan Peele continue to blossom and mature as a filmmaker. Whatever you’re looking for, Get Out will provide it.
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