In a dazzling directorial debut, Jordan Peele presents “Get Out,” a searing view of liberal racism in America. His “social thriller” is a cataclysmic mix-up of “The Stepford Wives” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” deeply rooted in the anxiety of modern race relations. Peele satirizes the “All Lives Matter” America in an extension to two audiences, intent on making clear that he isn’t colorblind, and neither is anyone else.
His social commentary chronicles the relationship between Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) who have reached the dreaded “meet the parents” milestone in their five month relationship. Rose’s parents Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) could not be more eager in assuring Chris of their nonchalance surrounding their daughter dating a “brother” but underneath the anxious attempts to sidestep race lies a deep current of something a lot more sinister.
Dean makes cringeworthy attempts to bond with Chris, calling him “my man” and proclaiming the joys of learning someone else’s culture. Missy is more watchful, predatory in her attempts to coerce Chris into letting her hypnotize him, to help rid him of his smoking habit. The annual party they have is full of these micro aggressions with one guest insisting, “I do know Tiger!” and another fetishizing Chris’ body.
Kaluuya is extremely believable and relatable as a protagonist and acts as an anchor to the more outlandish plotlines in the script. Williams is fantastic as a “woke” liberal, essentially riffing on the doe-eyed, privileged, and horribly oblivious character she plays on HBO’s “Girls”. Lil Rel Howery, playing Chris’ TSA agent friend, provides most of the laughs with his perfectly timed allegorical lines about trusting white people.
Peele’s meek $ 4.5 million dollar budget did not deter the quality of the film. Famous for his duo Key and Peele on Comedy Central, he is accustomed to working on a tight budget. Peele directs the film with a fresh, young eye, giving the scenes vitality and a “new Hollywood” sense. He effortlessly blends comedy with horror without polarizing either genre or creating stickiness in the flow of the scenes.
Peele strategically alludes to the Old South. The name “Missy” is what slaves used to call their mistresses, the silver spoon Missy uses to hypnotize Chris has been a longtime symbol of wealth and power (it used to distinguish landowners), and the creepy housekeeper Georgina serves the Armitages iced tea on their porch, as if it were a modern antebellum plantation. The bidding scene for Chris’ body is all too reminiscent of a slave auction.
Peele’s ultimate message is that admiration for black culture and physique is not a sufficient cover for the lack of humanity afforded to the population. Blacks have been the longtime property of white people and this gamut of modern objectification is fully played out in Peele’s film from large scale generalizations made about Chris to direct violence.
The horror of Peele’s film is that it is an effective reflection of the reality of race relations in America. His script is driven forward by the strong sophistication in his treatment of cultural assimilation and appropriation, the myth of a “post racial” America, and the primal tribal urges that underlie all human interaction.
Slavery was abolished in 1865, but the subjugation of the Black community has been part of the fabric of American history from the start and continues to be weaved in. The first sequence of the film uncomfortably recalls the Trayvon Martin shooting, letting viewers know from the get go that the true horror of the film is as simple as a black man walking at night in a white neighborhood.
His strong build from the start of the film is met by an effective catharsis at the end but not as fully fleshed out as the powerful elements of the suspense. Overall, it is a strong first piece of work from Peele who has proven his ability to navigate genre and thematic elements with grace.
Run Time: 1h 44min