Get Out – Let’s Talk about Race…
Jordan Peele’s new movie Get Out is going to be difficult to review without discussing race, racial division, and how we treat each other in general. As Peele managed to navigate the landscape quite brilliantly, I may not. That’s not coming from ignorance. It’s coming from….ignorance (but without the stank I guess). I used to judge my grandparents for saying racially insensitive remarks until I got old enough to realize that language changes quickly. What was acceptable to say when I was a kid is not acceptable to say now (and I’m not even 40!). I don’t harbor bad will against any person my color or another but I know not everybody is going to agree with my viewpoint. That’s ok. I can be wrong. So can you.
Get Out is a great watch and deserves all the accolades it is getting. Prior to its release, it scored 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Peele really flexes his muscle by writing and directing it (and excelling as well). He balances the mood, comedy, and horror nicely. His direction was masterful as the vision in his head translated well to the screen (helped by stellar performances). However, ultimately, I walked away from Get Out‘s message kinda sad yet hopeful for the future.
Daniel Kaluuya plays Chris, a young photographer with a budding career as a photographer. For the last five months, he’s been seeing the beautiful Rose (Allison Williams) and she invites him to meet her family. While Rose is excited for the weekend home, Chris has some reservations about the trip. He’s worried that her parents may judge their interracial relationship. Rose is unconcerned (her father would have voted for Obama a third time if he could!). Well, after an eventful car ride, they arrive. Immediately, Chris notices that the help just happens to have the same color skin as he does. Rose’s father (Bradley Whitford) is obviously overcompensating for being uncomfortable and her mom (Catherine Keener) seems down to earth but…strange. As Chris gets to know those around him, he starts to see more and more that something is off about these people. While Rose tries to comfort Chris unsuccessfully, his best friend Rod (LilRel Howery) offers support from afar.
Get Out flows beautifully from the beginning. From a mysterious attack to the setup of our characters, the mood adapts as it needs to. It takes its time introducing our characters and why we should care about them. Hell, a nice addition to the film is that Chris has quit smoking. This adds to heightened paranoia and reactions of our main character and why he seems off. It also lets us see strange (foreshadowing) pieces of the relationships (like when Rose asks to speak to Rod). The film can be quirky and then shift into serious pretty easily but what makes it special is that it is able to revisit that quirkiness again. It’s quite impressive.
Performanace wise, Kaluuya knocks it out of the ballpark. He’s likable, cool, and quite emotional. The cast behind him follows his lead quite nicely. Williams is a pretty face whose character seems to fall apart as the movie progresses (guessing that this was by design though). Whitford is uncomfortably funny, charming, and scary. Keener is just off (which is kinda funny because she lit up the room in The 40 Year Old Virgin). I never liked her character from her introduction.
Basically, the concept to Get Out is nothing new. It’s the Stepford Wives for the present. The Stepford Wives follows a young wife that is branching out professionally and leaving “the kitchen”. The novel for it was written in 1972 and came right on the heals of when women first started branching out into the workplace and leaving their traditional roles. We are in a time when many black people feel they are in a similar position. For the first time in American history, the future is really open to them. It’s amazingly awesome. But, with anything good, it can be scary as well.
Get Out focuses on Chris’ fear that he won’t be accepted by his love’s family based only on his skin. Now, Rose is a wonderful woman and has given him no reason to think her parents will be judgmental. That’s Chris’ fear. When he does get there, her parents are more than welcoming. However, his fear transitions away from that to being afraid of losing himself by being with Rose. He’s a proud black man. That’s edgy. Unfortunately, his fears are justified as that is her family’s plan: to make Chris lose touch with who he is. And why exactly?
It’s because they are revealed to want to be like him.
That’s an amazing deviation from the path that The Stepford Wives took. In Wives, it was about control and men assuming their “rightful” place as head of the family and provider. The men were scared of the women spreading their wings. The family in Get Out just wants to take advantage of “advanced genetics”. As one of the characters puts it, “being black is in”. It’s creepy and yet makes you dwell for a moment about the concept.
As a youngster, I was always taught that America was a “melting pot”. Who we were as immigrants was not lost when we came to America. It was melted into the culture and became a part of something greater. In the last 20 years, that concept has been changed to a salad bowl. As a society, we’ve really embraced being “who we are” and not wanting to conform. That’s awesome…but I’m not sure if this is a good group mentality. And, as it’s 2017, it makes me sad to think that there are droves of people out there that just now think they have an opportunity to spread their wings.
We are so focused on keeping our group identities that sometimes it conflicts with our personal identities. It’s a great update to a concept brought about 40 years ago which does give me hope for the future. Maybe discussing our differences as races will lead us together. Maybe we’re really on the precipice of something great where all of our cultures can understand, celebrate, and be one.
Maybe Jordan Peele just made a pretty good movie that intrigued me as a viewer.
Check it out.