Jordan Peele’s Get Out is a perfect movie in its own right, a masterful effort in raising then subverting audience expectations while delivering a powerful message on a subject that has gone tragically unaddressed in film. It is also a revelation for Peele himself, half of the beloved comedy team Key & Peele, whose feature film debut as writer-director is as good or better than the work of artists with twice his experience.
Thrilling, funny, richly layered, efficiently told yet never at the expense of style, Get Out is a must-see for all audiences, both for the vital commentary it provides, and for the experience of seeing what will one day be considered a classic while it is still brand new.
R, 103 minutes
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX,
Violet Crown Cinema
Get Out follows an interracial couple, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams), that is visiting her parents in the suburbs for the first time. While packing, Chris pauses to ask Rose if her parents know he is black, a question she laughs off as paranoid. They’re corny, she insists, but not racist. Upon arrival, Chris is greeted warmly by Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), but is immediately subjected to many boastful examples of how open-minded the white, wealthy, isolated couple is, which feels like commenting on Chris’ race in every way except directly.
Chris appears very familiar with how to brush off the pandering admiration of white liberals who want to prove just how not racist they are, and Kaluuya gets remarkable mileage out of glances, smirks and a simple “Mmm-hmm.” But everything he experiences at the house is just a step too far, and questions arise about whether these are more than the familiar microaggressions he’s endured his whole life. The first warning sign is the presence of black workers on the estate—a groundskeeper and a maid—who do not seem altogether whole as people. The second is Rose’s aggressive brother, the first to directly reference Chris’ “genetic makeup” while explaining how effective he would be as a mixed martial arts fighter; Chris would be “a beast,” spoken somehow admiringly.
Finally, there is a large gathering of Dean and Missy’s friends, who are other wealthy white elites. They all fixate on Chris as well, each in a troublingly specific and insulting way that is spoken as though it is a compliment: a retired golfer brags about knowing Tiger Woods, a woman with a paraplegic husband asks Rose if “it’s better,” another guest says that being black is in fashion. Again, these appear to be everyday microaggressions, a fact that conceals the more sinister web that Chris has walked into.
It is best to stop describing the plot here because where it goes is truly remarkable, and I defy anyone to correctly predict the twist. The central message is a powerful one, that black people in America are not permitted to simply be, even by those who very proudly proclaim how racist they are not. This is a class of racism that is not confronted enough in film, those who speak admiringly to black people about their race and decry bigotry yet do not fully grasp the black experience in America and are doing nothing to bring about positive change. We have seen the frothing Klansman who spouts racial slurs, but the negative effects of performative liberal guilt is demeaning and toxic in its own ways, and it is the latter dynamic that Get Out explores.
Without revealing much more, Get Out is spectacular, whether you’re a genre fan or not, and ought to be a star-making turn for Kaluuya and Lil Rel Howery, who plays Rodney, Chris’ best friend. Peele is the real deal, and any studio in its right mind will be throwing money at him to bring all of his ideas to life.
Playing this week
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213
Collide, A Cure for Wellness, A Dog’s Purpose, Fences, Fifty Shades Darker, Fist Fight, The Great Wall, Hidden Figures, John Wick: Chapter 2, La La Land, The Lego Batman Movie, Rings, Rock Dog, Split
Violet Crown Cinema
200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000
2017 Oscar Nominated Shorts, A Cure for Wellness, Fifty Shades Darker, Fist Fight, The Great Wall, Hidden Figures, I Am Not Your Negro, John Wicks: Chapter 2, La La Land, The Lego Batman Movie