Film review by Jason Day of Get Out, the horror movie about a young black man who visits his white girlfriend’s liberal family with terrifying and life-changing results. Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams.
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Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) are a young, loved-up interracial couple. When they decide to visit Rose’s parents, liberal, white professionals who live some distance from New York, Rose surprises Chris by stating that she has never told them he is black. Encouraged by her view that this will not bother them, they journey to their house.
Rose’s parents are a psychiatrist (Catherine Keener) and a surgeon (Bradley Whitman) and are welcoming and friendly, despite issuing a few well meaning but borderline offensive and importunate statements about black people and race relations.
As the weekend progresses Chris realises that these unfortunate ‘slips’ belie a more sinister reality.
Review, by Jason Day
Where are we are going as a society in terms of race relations and racial equality?
Are we headed toward greater understanding of each other so we respect one another as distinct groups, each with different norms and values, but essentially similar, under the skin?
Or are we fated to continue running around in circles, nipping at each other’s ethnic heels, forever consigned to being racial ‘haters’?
I’m no sociologist so shouldn’t theorise too much on this, but Get Out seems like a cinematic step backwards, despite its high profile during a time when the work of black movie professionals is given long overdue visibility.
Am I, as a white man, unable to grasp that other white people are so hateful toward their black brethren, that they are capable of the atrocities they do and have committed, as do the characters in the melodramatically murderous Get Out? You know, that whites are racist?
Am I that blinkered and naive?!
Or is it more simple than that? Is it just that, with the final third of this up-til-that-point solid, tantalising, even inventive, horror is complete and utter, derivative, drive-thru movie house dross? A third that shows, despite huge initial promise from the writer director, all he can do is Xerox the same cruddy slasher-movie ending of umpteen other ‘yoof in peril’ flicks?
Get Out is a mash-up of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner (1967) and The Stepford Wives (1975) but one that wisely avoids the clunky, pastle, putative-PC piffle of the first and mostly side-steps the camp of the second film.
Instead it falls into the trap of most hip, mainstream Hollywood thrillers that start with such interesting premises but go on to wimp out at the end with cliched blood and gore conclusions as sharp-object wielding baddies chase our hero/heroine through umpteen dark rooms until hero/heroine finally emerge in the world outside, physically alive but mentally shattered.
I won’t give more away for fear of ‘spoilering’ it but suffice to say, I slammed my head into my popcorn in bafflement as to how its makers could eschew their originality so shamelessly.
On the plus side are the performances. Kaluuya is a British actor riding high after the Best Actor Oscar nod for this movie. It’s not quite a win-worthy performance, as he doesn’t have a huge amount to say, but look at his face, those almost childishly pained expressions – he is still very good.
Streetwise, assured, confident and chilled when we first see him, he grips the audience as the penny slowly, excruciatingly, drops that his girlfriend’s liberal parents, whose casually outrageous comments about race he brushes off, are far more sinister.
We are terrified, as he is, watching his eyes bulge in fear, pouring with tears when her Mom (Catherine Keener, superb) hypnotises him with an innocuous cup of tea, needling his neuroses and pricking his past with wicked barbs disguised as kindly, therapeutic insight.
Although the ambiguities of the supporting characters are too loudly and bluntly fog-horned from the script, Caleb Landry Jones as Kaluuya’s future brother-in-law, a twitching, sweaty, dyed in the wool racist and Marcus Henderson as Walter, the family’s weird, intensely happy to be servile gardener, really ramp up the odd factor.
So, back to the broader issue of race-relations. Have things got better, or worse, in the world since the globally heart-lifting election of Barack Obama as the first African-American President the USA? Do we now all love and respect each other more. Even just a little bit?
Whether black or white in Get Out, there is distrust everywhere. Kaluuya’s best pal Rod (LilRel Howery) states he always had doubts about the outwardly perfect and blameless girlfriend Rose, a ‘white’ he never warmed to. Has he held his own, previously groundless, racial prejudices? Or is Rod just being honest, on behalf of all humans, by saying we still have a long way to go to eradicate racial unease?
I like to think we have made great strides as it is and Get Out, in the aim of pure filmic, bums-on-seats salaciousness, spins this apparent multicultural failure out for a few extra bucks. But then, perhaps I am hopefully naive.
Still, in the meantime, you can settle down with Get Out for at least an hour of genuinely creepy thrills before the cop-out nonsense sets in.
Cast & credits
Director: Jordan Peele. 1hr 44mins. Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/QC Entertainment/Monkeypaw Productions/Dentsu/Fuji Television Network. (15)
Producers: Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., Sean McKittrick, Jordan Peele.
Writer: Jordan Peele.
Camera: Toby Oliver.
Music: Michael Abels.
Sets: Rusty Smith.
Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield.