MOVIE REVIEW/Get Out You Don't Have To Go Home But You
Gotta Get The Hell On Out Of Here Daniel
Kaluuya as Chris in Jordan Peele's horror film on racism and white America, "Get
Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
There's "Imitation Of Life", "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?" and "Jungle Fever",
all horror films to a degree, but there's never been anything like Jordan
Peele's "Get Out", a horror film with an original premise that's both clever and
Designed as an allegory of American racism inflicted by whites against Blacks,
Mr. Peele's intense film deliberately avoids denoting time and place to its
events as it charts Chris's (Daniel Kaluuya) visit to the estate of his white
girlfriend Rose's (Allison Williams) parents, Missy and Dean Armitage, a
nauseatingly faux-ingratiating couple (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford).
These aren't The Taylors from Mayberry or The Olsons from The Prairie.
These "liberal" whites represent hierarchy, patronage, privilege and generations
of white supremacy, dominance and colonisation, accompanied by gentle smiles and
tense, awkward hospitality. They struggle to reign in a son (Caleb Landry
Jones) who is an attack dog whose leash has almost come undone.
The road to good intentions in a horror film are paved with Hitchcockian red
herrings, yet Mr. Peele eschews them, getting straight to the point in "Get
Out", using everyday occurrences that for Black people are commonplace horrors.
A white police officer asking for I.D. on a (deserted) stretch of road. (A
Sandra Bland evocation.) A racist stereoytpe question posed to Chris.
A white man's assumption of achieving race-based solidarity. These
interactions are casual and indicting, casting cumulative blows to Chris's and
the Black moviegoer's conscience. It's undeniably effective filmmaking by
Mr. Peele, part of the Key & Peele comedy duo.
Chris's good friend Rodney (Lil Rel Howrey), a TSA officer, is the comic
conscience of "Get Out" - the type who shouts at foolhardy movie characters not
to go into those woods to see where a bloodcurdling scream originated. Mr.
Howrey looks as if he's in a different movie from the other actors. He's
so good that he often throws "Get Out" slightly off-kilter. "Get Out"
livens and warms to his sunny, sharp presence and comic timing, both a comfort
and departure from the film's heavier doses of medicine on race and racism in
America. Rodney is an exhale for much of the film's white audience.
There's an excellent moment, the best in "Get Out", that delivers a truth about
oppressed classes and a symbolic denial of freedom in service of patriarchy.
It's a delicately subtle but a powerful part of Mr. Peele's directorial debut.
Despite some flourishes "Get Out" is indeed a more psychological than visceral
horror film, which underscores its staggeringly penetrative effect. I was
left with a sledgehammer to my psyche, one I'm still finding hard to eradicate.
As a Black man I live traumatic experiences of racism daily - horrors on varying
scales (most recently, an ordeal with a delayed taking of a food order at Nob
Hill Cafe in San Francisco). There's immense silence and isolation Chris
feels throughout his visit to white suburbia. Chris is forever framed as
quarry in a lair of predatory and duplicitous white people. I feel that
same isolation whenever I experience racism and racist behavior. Mr.
Kaluuya's open features and malleable expressions are so plaintive, and he
successfully renders Chris's genuine terror at being trapped in a hell that is
impossible to escape. He gives a Black man permission to be scared, to be
human and to be vulnerable -- and this is an extreme rarity in a horror movie.
The Black people Chris encounters at the suburban mansion are trancelike
servants far more sonambulent or obedient than Hattie McDaniel, Willie Best or
Stepin Fetchit or their alter egos. The zombielike House Negroes of "Get
Out" are smarter than their pained, frozen expressions may suggest. They
are enslaved, exhausted players in yesterday's minstrel show, performers of
their own discomfort the very discomfort simultaneously enabling Missy's and
Dean's false self-reassurance in their own fragile, dysfunctional condition of
power. Especially scary is the Stepford-like housekeeper (an excellent
Betty Gabriel, robotic as Georgina). She is memorable in a close-up that
gave me the creeps and conveyed a sense of her own private history and
struggles. A truth burns right through Georgina in that close-up, a truth
Ms. Gabriel conveys in such an expressive manner that was unmistakable and had
Mr. Peele, an African-American who is married to a white woman (comedian Chelsea
Peretti), takes care to make Mr. Kaluuya and Ms. Williams as discreetly
sexualized as possible. Their romantic interludes are kept abbreviated and
at a bare minimum in "Get Out". The sphere of operation in the Chris-Rose
relationship is polite, genial and surface at best, with cliches, sarcasm,
ignorance and stereotypes peppering their exchanges and much of the film's --
sterotypes which for better or worse are the object of tension-relieving comedy.
Still, the choreography of movement in a scene where Rose comforts Chris is an
interesting optical illusion I will have to look closely at when I revisit this
fine film again very soon.
Despite funny moments which weren't laugh-out loud funny for me, Mr. Peele is
clearly and refreshingly serious about his intent and point of view. To be
a Black man or Black woman in America has perpetually meant living life balanced
precariously on a pendulum swinging between horror, terror, discomfort, tension,
superficiality and uncertainty vis-a-vis white counterparts even in the best of
times. "Get Out" crystallizes this frenzied, traumatic state of existence
in a uniquely fashioned way and it works, sometimes devastatingly, for the
horror genre. "Get Out" forms no illusions about the character whose
experiences it inherits.
That said, the one missing variable of "Get Out", despite its effective critique
and crushing truths about American racial interactions - its physical,
psychosexual, possessory, patronizing, placating and violent ones - is that the
film's white characters aren't sufficiently challenged or their insecurities
laid bare. Throughout they are pantomimed, and pantomime villains -
inevitable in a horror film - but aren't made to face accountability. The
film's white characters aren't examined or indicted for their racist ways.
Their sytemic behaviors and traditions are the rule, and that
is the true horror that lingers throughout and beyond "Get Out". (That
Dean is a neurosurgeon and Missy is a psychiatrist/hypnotist could be the director's smart,
satirical way of signaling the fog of white delusion, privilege and cluelessness
The violence "Get Out" reverts to is akin to an escape hatch, a death sentence
that lets off the likes of Dylann Roof. Though expedient it all seems a
huge conceit, and the brilliant conceptualizations and atmospheric, even
langourously seductive stagings of metaphorical socioeconomic chasm are
subverted and uprooted by the violence that surely has to come. Mr. Peele
has triumphed nonetheless, and "Get Out" offers a thoughtful, inventive,
entertaining and utterly riveting experience for horror fans, social
commentators and moviegoers alike.
Also with: Lakeith Stanfield, Marcus Henderson, Stephen Root, Caren L. Larkey,
John Wilmot, Ashley LeConte Campbell, Julie Ann Doan, Geraldine Singer, Richard
"Get Out", which opened in theaters today across the U.S. and Canada, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of
America for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references.
The film's running time is one hour and 44 minutes.