Comedian turned director, Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele fame), is certainly making a mark with his debut feature, Get Out. The film expresses racial tension in a way we’ve not seen before – the social thriller, dripping in satire, draws to our attention the reality of a “post-racial” America. Full of wit and a clever use of comedy, Get Out is an opportunity to tackle the undercurrents of racism in a so-called liberal world.
“Black creators have not been given a platform, and the African-American experience can only be dealt with by an African-American. That might be problematic to say… Let’s say it would be scary for a white writer and director to do something that includes the victimisation of black people in this way.” – Jordan Peele, GQ
Set in the upmarket suburbs, a pre-credits scene follows Lakeith Stanfield being herded by an obnoxious white sports car blaring ‘Run Rabbit Run’. Naturally, he turns and tries to escape, only to be jumped on by a helmet-clad figure and thrown in the back of the trunk.
In the 21st century, that is a confident way to introduce a film. It’s immediately uncomfortable and, quite frankly, awful to watch.
The titles roll and we are thrust into a juxtaposing girl-takes-guy-home affair. The change of tone is certainly welcome, however. British actor Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario; Johnny English: Reborn) stars as Chris Washington, a successful photographer.
He’s in a relationship with Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) who has decided that it’s time for him to meet the parents.
Naturally, he’s nervous about meeting them; she attempts to reassure him. The one burning question plaguing Chris is:
“Do they know I’m black?”
It’s one of those situations. You notify your parents that you’re in a relationship. If they’re not on Facebook (of course), they probably won’t know any aesthetic details about them until the dreaded meeting. It’s part of what causes the nerves – the entire meeting between the prospective partner and the parents is based on judging whether they approve.
In this day and age, someone’s race is not a defining feature worthy of notification. You don’t expect to hear”Oh, by the way, they’re *anything other than white*”. It’s not something deemed necessary in today’s world (I should like to think). In Get Out, Chris evidently feels that they will disapprove of him because of this – namely because his girlfriend is a stereotypical ‘preppy white girl’ whose parents own an estate upstate.
This concept follows Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), starring Sidney Poitier and Joanna Drayton.
Rose’s parents, Dean and Missy Armitage (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener), are overly accommodating of Chris and their conversations are carefully crafted by Jordan Peele’s script. Riddled with satire, Peele draws attention to how difficult it is to navigate the matter of race and how, so very often, covert racism still afflicts the so-called ‘liberal’ notions equality and acceptance.
Once we discover that Dean is a neurologist and Missy is a hypnotist, naturally, suspicions arise as to their true nature. The revelation that Chris and Rose’s visit coincides with the Armitage’s annual party gives rise to some suspicion and the growing tension rises alongside Chris’ justified paranoia.
The party guests are as sickly-sweet as Dean and Missy. Often betraying odd mutterings relating to Chris’ African-American heritage, the guests, quite literally, prod, probe and patronise him, betraying the cringe-worthy: “fair skin has been in favour for years, but now the pendulum has swung back – black is in fashion!” amongst other awkward opinions. One retired golfer even remarked: “I do know Tiger” as if that makes a difference to anything! The awkwardness soon gives way to something more disturbing; the guests begin to reveal their conspiratorial nature.
It is the other African-American characters at the party that start to raise questions, for both the audience and Chris. From the housekeeper, the groundsman and to a fellow party guest, their actions are stilted and overtly polite. When one of them, eyes glazed, shouts “Get out!” in Chris’ face, we have to wonder whether it is a threat or a warning.
Throughout the film, Chris keeps in touch with his good friend Rod (LilRel Howery), a TSA officer. Rod is a welcome comic respite in the film. Honestly, he is fantastic. Often discussing his conspiracies about the strange goings-on at the Armitage estate, Chris determines that he genuinely needs to get out. But, who are we kidding, here? This is a horror film after all.
The final act of the film is as bizarre as it is chilling. While the climax of the film doesn’t lack the final punch of satisfaction that I’d like from a horror film, it was certainly enjoyable – particularly its final moments.
In conclusion, Get Out is refreshing for its genre and critically poignant. It’s neither unnecessarily explicit nor too nuanced, instead it is the right amount of subtle which certainly works in its favour.
Perhaps be sure you’re definitely ready to meet the parents before you wind up in a situation like Chris Washington. Let that be a lesson to everyone. There’s a difference between being nice and being quietly psychopathic.
Thanks for reading.
Please bear in mind that trailers give a lot of the film away these days. If you don’t want the film spoiled, don’t watch the trailer.