Movie Review: Get Out

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Get Out * 2017 * Rated R * 1 Hour 44 Minutes

😸😸😸😸😸 Rated 5/5 Happy lap cats

Jordan Peele has written and directed a powerful, thought-provoking movie with layers of statements to make. He’s also made a taut psychological thriller that combines the racially motivated social awkwardness of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” with the justified paranoia of “The Stepford Wives”and the slowly revealed evil of “Rosemary’s Baby”. Get Out reveals the truth about its premise incrementally, at just the right pace, so that the viewer, like lead character Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), ends up similar to a frog in slowly boiling water. When he, and we, finally become sure that things have gone bad, it’s already too late, and it’s unlikely any of us will forget what we’ve already seen. As with any horror movie, there’s no escape left, so the best way out is through.

Along with Chris, Get Out follows the story of Rose Armitage (Alison Williams), a white woman who’s been dating Chris, an African-American photographer, for 4-5 months. Rose has decided that it’s time to bring Chris home to meet her upper class parents, Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford) who live in the exurbs of New York City, where the nearest neighbor is so far away that they can’t hear you scream. Chris asks his best friend, Rod, a TSA agent (LilRel Howery), to take care of his dog while he’s gone. They check in with each other several times during the weekend.

Trouble starts on the drive up to the burbs, in the form of a police officer (Trey Burvant) who’s slightly harassing, but nothing unusual for an African-American man at a traffic stop in the US. Rose’s family continues the mood, with their overt friendliness but strange, intrusive comments which reflect their casual, seemingly unconscious racism, but also seem to mean something more. By the time Rose’s brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), arrives for dinner, and tries to teach Chris to fight right at the dinner table, things are getting suspiciously weird. No one else seems to notice except Chris, but he is the only person of color in the house who isn’t a servant, so he questions whether he’s just a bit paranoid.

Get Out builds to a surprising twist or two and a riveting action sequence. The violence isn’t overdone or excessively gross. The movie is much more in the vein of a Hitchcock thriller than a modern slasher flick. My only complaint would be that things felt a little rushed sometimes at the end, but I often feel that way about modern movies.

The film’s production design is meant to look comfortingly normal. Its camera work and sound are frequently slightly off from what we’d normally expect, making the viewer uncomfortable, such as a long shot when we instinctively know a medium or close up would make more sense, or an extra shaky shot of Chris when he’s feeling off kilter. The dialogue and actions are often the same, with the performances using nuance to turn slightly offensive conversations into clues of possibly sinister plots. An actor will play a scene a little too intensely, or enthusiastically, or might even just say their lines a bit slowly, causing us to question their intentions. Are they part of an evil plot, or are we and the main character reading too much into things?

Get Out is all so well done that it keeps the viewer guessing which characters are on what side, right up until the very end. We’re not sure if Chris is paranoid, there’s evil afoot, or maybe just some garden variety mental illness and manipulation amongst Rose’s family and neighbors. Are the actions against Chris personal, racist, or has he stumbled into a nest of serial killers? Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, you discover that you don’t.

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Observations (Spoilers):

  • After you’ve seen Get Out, you may never be able to look at an innocent cup of tea the same way again. As someone of Northern European descent who drinks multiple cups of tea a day, I was struck by the perfection and subtlety of using a simple cup of tea as the main weapon against the protagonist, a black man. If you know your history, you’ll know that the rising popularity of tea in the 18th and 19th centuries fueled the growing market for sugar to sweeten it. Sugar was produced by slaves working on plantations. The demand for sugar and tea gave an incentive to keep the slave trade running and to keep millions of people enslaved. Having the rich white suburbanites use the teacup and spoon to enslave their modern black victims is a stroke of genius.
  • Stephen Root plays Jim Hudson, a blind Art gallery owner who admires Chris’ work, perhaps a little too much.
  • I wish a little more time had been given to explaining the procedure that was being performed on the victims, and to a denouement. I wanted to know who lived and died, at the very least, and if the conspiracy was exposed. I guess that’s what sequels are for. 🐸
  • Using hypnosis to condition Chris to physically and mentally freeze and hide inside his mind is not where I thought things would go, and made the movie even more scary. Making the victim complicit in trapping himself in his own mind is diabolical. Becoming trapped in your own mind is such a realistic thing to have happen.
  • There are so many references to greed and wanting what someone else has in this movie, particularly someone’s physical gifts and abilities based on racial stereotypes. On the flip side, it’s assumed that the African-Americans won’t be smart enough to figure a way out to save themselves, even though we see every single one of them break their conditioning over the course of the movie. Underestimating people never goes well.
  • [MASSIVE SPOILER] It’s underdeveloped, but this movie replaces the concept of robots or clones as replacement bodies for the wealthy with stolen bodies from people of color. It seemed like they started with any healthy African-American body of the correct gender, using blacks because they considered African-Americans to have the strongest bodies, and minds that didn’t matter. Now the community was moving on to provide bodies with specific talents and skills. Hudson wanted Chris’ body because he’s a talented photographer. Rose was looking up black athletes as she was eating her Fruit Loops. Maybe to fulfill a request? I really would like to see the science fiction aspect of the story picked up in another movie. Jordan Peele has said that he’s open to doing a sequel.
  • The deer motif is fascinating, since it comes almost as a warning in the beginning of the film, is meant for the victims to identify with, but ends up being used as protection.
  • Get Out has been nominated for four Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director (Jordan Peele), Best Actor (Daniel Kaluuya), and Best Original Screenplay (Jordan Peele). Get Out also received two Golden Globe nominations: Best Motion Picture/Musical or Comedy and Best Actor/Comedy or Musical for Daniel Kaluuya.

 

GOChris&Rose

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