Get Out | Jordan Peele | February 24, 2017
You and your significant other have reached the meet-their-parents stage – not weird, right? You two drive upstate to their house in the middle of nowhere, hit a deer, get asked by a cop for ID even though you weren’t driving, and then get to her parents’ house to find two African-Americans working in servile positions (housekeeper and groundskeeper) – still not weird? Her parents aren’t racist, though – her dad voted for Obama twice and would have a third time! But therein lies the rub of Jordan Peele’s taut directorial debut Get Out.
Normally, these incidents wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary in your run-of-the-mill psychological thriller (confrontational cop, house in the middle of nowhere), but this is Jordan Peele we’re talking about, so you know there’s more going on under the surface. And the film DOES open with a black man being choked out and stuffed in the trunk of a car in the middle of the night in suburbia, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Get Out focuses on Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a photographer, and Rose (Allison Williams); their trip to visit Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), Rose’s parents (a neurosurgeon and psychiatrist, respectively), is going just peachy … except that he’s the first black boyfriend she’s had (despite her insistence that her family isn’t racist), the cop that pulls them over asks for Chris’s ID (even though he was the passenger), and her parents have two black housekeepers (Walter (Marcus Henderson) tends to the grounds and Georgina (Betty Gabriel) tends to chores around the house) – which Dean and Missy easily explain as they stuck around to continue helping after Dean’s parents died.
After the usual relationship Q&A and house tour (including Dean pointing out his father’s claim to fame – coming in second after Jesse Owens at the Munich Olympics), Missy suggests hypnotism to help Chris kick his smoking habit, but he laughs it off. Then things start to get weirder with the return of Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) and his comments on Chris’s athletic ability, frame, and genetic makeup, the surprise that an annual gathering of Dean and Missy’s friends is also this weekend, and Chris steps out for a midnight smoke, only to notice Walter and Georgina acting … oddly. And he’s then roped into an impromptu hypnosis session with Missy – which is where I’ll leave you.
Get Out is a solid post-modern psychological horror film that doubles as social commentary. Peele puts his writing chops to use slowly building up microaggressions for Chris and the audience to ratchet up the askew weirdness until it reaches a breaking point in the third act, turning the token black character in horror movies trope on its head while laying bare the daily wrongs and slights faced by people of color. From the initial “my parents aren’t racist” to the cop asking for ID to Georgina and Walter’s odd codeswitching to questions from the partygoers, you can’t help but wonder “What in the world is going on here?” Or, to succinctly summarize the reactions of people at my screening – “Yo, get outta there!” Thankfully, Chris’s dogsitting TSA employee pal Rod (LilRey Howery) provides some appropriate and well-timed comic relief as the tone of the film gets darker and more fucked-up.
There’s so much to discuss, but this is another one of those cases where you want to go in knowing very little (or as little as possible) about the film. Instead, what works, in addition to Peele’s writing and directing, is the smaller cast. Kaluuya has a few credits to his name (including the upcoming Watership Down miniseries and Black Panther), Williams has Girls (most notably), Jones was Banshee in X-Men: First Class, and Lakeith Lee Stanfield (one of the party guests) was recently seen in Atlanta. Otherwise, Whitford is back for another round of post-modern horror (previously Cabin in the Woods), and Keener is back for a juicy supporting/indie/wife role. That doesn’t even touch on character actor Steven Root’s appearance in the second half of the film as a blind art gallery owner who knows of Chris’s work – and I do enjoy some Steven Root.
So where does that leave us? Get Out features some solid social commentary disguised as a psychological horror film from writer-director Jordan Peele that works because of the smaller cast and the writing. However, a plot point or two – once the twist is factored in – raise some questions about the actions of certain characters, but that’s for a later discussion. Still, it’s well worth seeing – multiple times, if you think you’re up for it – and it’s even better if you have no expectations or foreknowledge.