MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 103 minutes
Directed by: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener
I generally avoid horror films at all costs. I figure there’s enough of that in the daily news; adding fictional horror hardly seems necessary.
But I’ll make an exception for Get Out, Jordan Peele’s smart, funny and yes, creepy going-to-meet-the-parents thriller that is not what it seems, on several levels.
Get Out, opens with a familiar sequence: a black man walking alone down a dark residential street is sighted and tailed by a stranger in a car. A Trayvon Martin scene?
Well, no, and soon the scene shifts to African American photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), on the way to the Armitage place upstate to meet her lily-white parents.
An unfortunate encounter with a deer on the road gives the trip an inauspicious start, and it doesn’t improve when the cop comes and asks for Chris’ ID, though Rose was driving. She calls him out on the profiling.
Rose hasn’t told her parents Chris is black because, she says, race is not an issue. As she puts it, “Dad would have voted for Obama for a third term.”
Sure enough, they seem quite welcoming, and dad Dean (Bradley Whitford, of The West Wing) says that very line shortly after they’re introduced. Dad is a retired brain surgeon. Mom Missy (Catherine Keener) is a psychiatrist who seems to like tea (with a spoon) more than anyone you’ve ever met.
At dinner, Rose’s younger med-student brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) can’t wait to tell an embarrassing story about his sister, then insists on demonstrating his jiu-jitsu prowess until Chris gets him in a headlock and Missy stops them both.
Chris is further nonplussed to meet the family’s African American housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel), who seems a bit, um, stiff, and groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson), also a bit of a puzzlement.
Things only get odder as this often-amusing Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner encounter lengthens, but the less said about that, the better. Suffice it to say here that Peele isn’t interested in doing straight horror, or even horror with comedy.
He’s as interested in social commentary exposing white racism and man’s ability to do unto others awful things as in either of the others, though you’ll get it all in Get Out.
Peele (one half of the comedy duo Key & Peele) knows his way around both comedy and timing, and it shows. Give him props also for his casting choices. British actor Kaluuya has such an expressive face and such a wide emotional range that it seems he could do this part without moving at all. Williams (from the HBO series Girls) is likewise a perfect choice.
But the secondary characters also set this film apart from the pack. Gabriel’s Georgina at once fascinating and frightening is my favorite.
Get Out marks Peele’s directorial debut. He’s a natural. Let’s hope for many more Peele films.
Photo Credits: Justin Lubin / Universal Studios