Review: Get Out

Review: Get Out

"Yooooooooooooo!" is basically the only acceptable response to most of this movie. Horror is difficult. Comedy is even more difficult. And race is perhaps the most difficult topic in American life. To thoughtfully deal in any of these areas is a feat. To ably deal with all of them and the contours between each is a true uphill climb. Is the Black experience in America funny? It certainly can be. Is it possible for a moment to be both funny and frightening? Definitely. And those are the kinds of lines the film is jumping as it weaves its social commentary into a somewhat allegorical tale of interracial love and modern familial relations. 

If you haven't seen the film, perhaps stop here? I'm not telling you how to live, but the ways the film unfolds and surprises are a real treat and I don't think I can accurately convey how much I liked this movie without covering them, so there's your warning. 

 Photo Courtesy Universal Pictures

Photo Courtesy Universal Pictures

Rose Armitage (played by Allison Williams) and Chris Washington (played by Daniel Kaluuya) are two twenty-somethings in an interracial relationship. We meet them just as they are about to travel to the Armitage family home, where Chris will 'meet the parents' for the first time. When they arrive, they are greeted by the usual artifacts of liberal white guilt. Things like misplaced slang and "I would have voted for Obama for a third term if I could have" are meant to serve as signals that the Armitage family is welcoming of their daughter's new Black boyfriend.  But as we start to meet members of the Armitages' extended circle, awkward becomes the least of Chris' concerns. 

First, there are the housekeeper and groundskeeper. Two middle-aged Black people who seem "off" from frame one. In the end, they turn out to be the transplanted consciousnesses of Rose's grandparents. They are victims of a brand of hypnosis Mrs. Armitage deploys. She eventually uses the same technique on Chris in preparation for their plan. Next, there is the bevy of white, and presumably wealthy, friends who come to the Armitage residence for what we eventually learn is an auction for Chris. The grand design is that the Armitages welcome Black people into their home and then perform lobotomies that give their white friends and family a new lease on life. When Chris eventually wises up to the scheme, he does everything he can to escape, leaving a trail of blood and guts in his vengeful wake. 

 Photo Courtesy Universal Pictures

Photo Courtesy Universal Pictures

While that is the broad outline, there are any number of nuanced points of intrigue I wish I had room to discuss. This is one that will reward a close rewatch, with subtle symbolism sprinkled throughout. Whether it is the role of symmetry in certain images or the layered meaning of certain lines, this film is operating at an uncommonly high level for a work of satire. The film is a live wire throbbing with an electricity and a vibrancy that delivers its message with substance and style. But even beyond that, Jordan Peele's clear perspective makes for a biting social critique that will stick with you if you let it. Not unlike Kendrick Lamar's "The Blacker The Berry," the allegorical elements of Get Out can function as a clarion call to snatch back valued elements of Black culture. The fact that the person who wins the auction for Chris is established as well-intentioned is instructive and his explanation of what they are doing is doubly so. When he says that everyone just wants what they want from Black people, it is so deeply emblematic of the ways Black people generally joke about appropriation amongst ourselves. When the flash is used to jar the hypnotized back into consciousness, its as if the movie is making an argument that a similar reawakening is needed in the Black community--one that will draw us out of the "sunken place" Mrs. Armitage refers to in the hypnosis sessions. 

 Photo Courtesy Universal Pictures

Photo Courtesy Universal Pictures

The magic here is that Peele is talking to Black people fairly explicitly in a film marketed to broader audiences. Being Black in a largely White America can be a uniquely horrifying experience at times. Whether you are thinking about present or past, there is always a certain horror-comedy feel that Get Out captures beautifully. While there are laughs and scares for all, there will undoubtedly be cathartic moments for Black moviegoers. Whether it is the pain on Georgina's face in those split seconds you can see her original soul shining through, or Chris' arc from acceptance to fear and loathing, the end product packs a punch. While it is undoubtedly uproariously funny and will have audiences laughing on any number of different levels, hopefully it proves able to provoke thought in equal measure.

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