“Get Out” Movie Review

Get Out

     Writer/director Jordan Peele, one half of the duo responsible for Comedy Central’s outstanding “Key and Peele”, is certainly not shy about pressing a few buttons with his feature debut “Get Out”, a critique on racial stereotypes disguised ever so nicely as, of all things, a horror thriller.  The film immediately jumps into the ongoing world of racial tensions with a prologue in which a young black man is walking in what by his own admission is a white neighborhood, with his feelings about doing so being worn directly on his sleeve.  It’s to the point he wants so badly to make it to his destination without something bad happening to him, which I presume means not being stopped by the police.  It’s in this scene that Peele establishes the tone for the film.  A tone that would have the black characters stuck in a constant state of uncomfortableness as they fear the worst when around their seemingly gracious white hosts.

     Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is an upcoming photographer who began dating Rose (Allison Williams) a few months prior to the events of the story.  As a couple, they are arriving at the point in the relationship where meeting each other’s parents has now become an obligation, resulting in Rose arranging for the two of them to drive to her parents rural home for the weekend.  As if Peele hadn’t already set the stage with the opening scene, he has his lead come right out and state exactly what he fears about their upcoming weekend excursion.  Chris wonders aloud whether or not Rose has told her parents she is dating someone who is black.  Why he would think Rose hadn’t told them is unknown, but Peele begins his all out assault on the ways in which people of different races, in this case black and white, seem to awkwardly communicate with one another as Rose tries to comfort Chris by informing him her father wanted Obama to have a third term.  That line became the first of many to draw a chuckle from the audience.

     I think it’s completely normal when you are meeting someone for the first time, and in a situation in which mingling is required, that you key in on similarities in order to generate some kind of meaningful conversation.  If you find out they have kids, and you have kids, then naturally you talk about each other’s kids.  Peele puts Chris right into the cross hairs of Rose’s family, all of whom are white of course, bombarding him with the typical questions a mom, dad, and brother would ask when meeting their daughter’s/sister’s boyfriend for the first time, but something seems a little off about them.  Rose’s father, Dean (Bradley Whitford), affirms to Chris his one time hope that Obama would be given a third term, but also finds himself having to explain why he has two black servants, Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson), working for him on the family property.  He explains it away by saying both worked for his late parents and they chose to stay on after they passed, but this scene in particular highlights both the overconfident arrogance Rose’s family displays, as well as the escalating tension and paranoia Chris feels as the visiting black boyfriend.  And that paranoia certainly isn’t helped by the presence of Rose’s mother, Missy (Catherine Keener), who seems hellbent on using her hypnosis skills to rid Chris of his smoking habit.

     A second act dinner party the family’s friends and relatives, all of which are white, pushes the envelope in back and forth banter laced with racial stereotypes.  Peele seems to believe that when a white person encounters a black person in a social setting, they begin any conversation by bringing up a black related topic, such as Tiger Woods, in an attempt to seem relatable to black culture.  The assumptions made about Chris by these characters is sure to garner plenty of laughs from the viewer, but it’s also clear Peele is making a statement about the racial tensions we live with today and the fear exhibited by both sides.  Of course, the entire story does takes place within the strict confines of the horror genre, meaning ultimately the characters will have to be divided into good and evil by the third act when all hell breaks loose.  Peele does a great job ensuring those intentions are blurred for as long as possible, but eventually “Get Out” abandons its thought provoking dialogue for standard horror tropes.

     It would be difficult for a white person to not form some kind of negative perception during their lifetime about black people when practically every representation in the media inaccurately portrays them in a less than positive light, with news stations choosing to air stories of black suspects committing violent crimes in impoverished inner city neighborhoods as the most common lead in for broadcasts, newspapers, and digital media.  As we grow up, we are conditioned to believe a black person in our neighborhood is trouble, a thought that is as unfounded as it is stupid.  Conversely, black people form many of the same opinions about white people.  The media loves to report stories about police misconduct and because it is always assumed white people support the police, black people will create a fear amongst themselves that has them believe if they are stopped by a white police officer they will be treated differently and even killed. Yet another fallacy made up as a common belief within our society. It is these kinds of baseless fears that Peele capitalizes on.  Now whether his commentary here is to be considered smart or should be dismissed as merely grandstanding on a topic that can easily be taken advantage of is up to the individual viewer to decide.  Unfortunately, the answer to that question for most will likely depend on your skin color, indicating just how divided we really are.  And that is truly sad.  GRADE: B-