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Review: Get Out (2017)

Get Out (2017)

Directed by: Jordan Peele

Premise: A young African American (Daniel Kaluuya) meets the family of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams). The parents are awkward but friendly but the visitor gradually begins to suspect that something is wrong. 

What Works: Get Out is a paranoia thriller reminiscent of the Red Scare movies of the 1950s and 60s like The Manchurian Candidate and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. What this film does so well is to create a palatable sense of dread but without overplaying its hand. Movies like this succeed by creating an impression that something is off; this requires subtlety and craftiness, which the film has in abundance. Get Out concerns a young African American who ventures to the upscale home of his white girlfriend. Meeting the parents of a significant other is an inherently stressful situation and it’s made more so by racial and social class differences. Before Get Out gets to anything creepy the moviemakers already put their character into an uncomfortable position and successfully exploit his discomfort to put him and us on edge. Upon arriving at the girlfriend’s family home, the weekend visit begins with some minor awkwardness that gradually escalates as family friends come to visit. The success of Get Out is partly due to the way in which director Jordan Peele blocks and photographs the action. Most of the movie demonstrates excellent control of the tone and the filmmakers stage the action in a way that isolates the lone African American character. The film also benefits from its performances. Daniel Kaluuya is very good in the lead. He’s required to be both strong and vulnerable and Kaluuya is a watchable and engaging protagonist. The film also benefits from the casting of Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford as the parents. They begin more awkward than creepy and the actors gauge their performances. Also impressive are Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson, and Lakeith Stanfield as other African Americans. There is more to them than is initially apparent and the actors do a wonderfully unsettling job of hinting at the secret underneath their characters. In addition to being successfully scary, Get Out is also a very smart film. The moviemakers tell a story about racism but they don’t go for the most obvious and simplistic formulation of it. That’s one of the most exceptional aspects of Get Out. Like the original Night of the Living Dead and Candyman, this film has something relevant and provocative to say about race and class issues. The premise of Get Out is a metaphor of racism in white liberal society and how people of color are made into an accessory of white life.

What Doesn’t: Get Out is clearly influenced by other movies, namely The Stepford Wives, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Wicker Man, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. At times, the influences become obvious and Get Out occasionally feels like an assembly of allusions to other films. There is a period in the middle of Get Out where the story becomes wobbly. The film shifts its focus from Daniel Kaluuya’s character and to his friend played by Lil Rel Howery. Howery is the comic relief and he is effective in small doses. But for a short while Howery’s character is placed at the center of the action and in this section Get Out veers into a different tone that is out of step with the rest of the film. Allison Williams is cast as the girlfriend and she is a good choice for the part until she isn’t. Williams is quite good as the girlfriend who genuinely likes this guy but is oblivious to the social and racial implications of their relationship. But her character is taken in a different direction in the climax and Williams does not have the versatility to make the transition convincing.

Bottom Line: Get Out is a fun and frightening movie that’s also quite smart. This is an impressive directorial debut from Jordan Peele, who’s otherwise best known for his comic efforts with Keegan-Michael Key, and it’s a truly subversive scare.

Episode: #638 (March 12, 2017)