From its opening scene of an African American man walking lost in an affluent neighborhood to the penultimate, where the main character—also black—holds his hands up to the flashing lights of a police car, the movie Get Out is both topical and timely. I can imagine sitting in a pitch meeting and someone is saying “It’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner meets the Stepford Wives,” which would be spot-on. Both were movies chock-full of social commentary and the tension of what it means in our white, male-centric world to be a “good” minority or woman. Get Out has gotten an amazing 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and for a while was at an unheard of 100%.
A quick synopsis of the story:
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) an African-American photographer, is boyfriend to Rose (Allison Williams) a White-American. She wants to take her boyfriend home to meet the parents. He asks if they know he’s black, and she all but tells him it’s silly to worry and re-assures him that her father would have voted for Obama a third time if he could. There’s a sense of dangerous foreboding on the way up to her parent’s rural town when they hit a deer and the local law enforcement is called in and wants to see Chris’ ID but Rose is adamant in her refusal that Chris hands over his ID since she was the one driving. The audience has to wonder, is she being an ally or as the story unfolds, are there more nefarious reasons?
Meeting the parents goes smoothly, and as predicted, the perfect joke happens when one of the first things her dad, Dean (Bradley Whitford) says to Chris is “I would have voted for Obama a third time.” Things soon start seeming off to Chris, especially when he interacts with the gardener and housekeeper, both black and who lack any affect and seem to be in a dream-like state. These encounters are followed by an unsettling dinner with the younger brother, an even more disturbing party with friends, which culminate in the strangest game of bingo I’ve ever seen, and the horrid reveal; which I don’t want to give away. Lil Rey Howery, as Chris’ BFF offers up some great comic relief, and the TSA even gets a shout out.
Horror movies are a way we can hold a mirror up to different aspects of society that are vulnerable and reflect our fears. Whether it’s a story about a teenage girl, a child, motherhood, changing norms, the deadness of consumer society, or rapid scientific advances good horror have a strong point of view. I don’t know if there’s been a horror movie that specifically deals with being black in America. My guess is that there hasn’t because you don’t need fiction to see the horrors that documentaries, like the recent releases 13th, and I Am Not Your Negro explore. Unlike a documentary though, this movie is meant to be entertaining and also incisive on many different levels. It’s interesting to learn that Jordan Peele (the writer and director and famous half of the duo Keegan and Peele) has been working with the idea of this story since 2008. But I don’t think it would have played as well until now. What a difference nine years makes, right?
Hollywood saves its best movies or tent pole productions for the summer and late fall, but in the early months a movie slips in that sticks with you for the entirety of the year, I venture to predict that Get Out will be that one for many.