Movie Review : Get Out (2017)
It's crazy to think Jordan Peele's first feature movie Get Out was only released a little over four months ago. So many people have seen and formed an opinion on this new and "groundbreaking" horror movie that "made racism scary", it feels like it already has its own Criterion edition. Get Out was praised almost unilaterally and became important before it even turned six months old, which is crazy. Can a movie be THAT good and meaningful? The short answer would be : sort of, but it's more complicated than that. Get Out is both a successful horror movie and social commentary, but it falls prey to its own eloquence a little. It's a movie bound to be misinterpreted and co-opted into discourses it might not want to be associated with.
Get Out is the story of a young, black man named Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) meeting his white girlfriend's parents for the first time. He is understandably nervous, but first contact goes oddly well. A little too well, in fact. Rose's parents are warm, welcoming and they cannot shut up about African-American culture. Same goes for every other guest of this mysterious weekend get-together. Everyone seems obsessed with Chris and his cultural background, but he's not even the only black guy present. He's the only black person acting normal, though. So, what the fuck is going on? Chris only wants to get through the weekend and his best friend Rod (Lil' Rel Howaery) urges him to get out before they turn him into a sex slave or something worse. Turns out Chris' conspiracy theorist bro hadn't even scratched the surface.
Writer and director of Get Out Jordan Peele said in interview that he wanted to expose the convenient myth of post-racial America in the movie. That racism had ended with the election of an African-American president in 2008. The Armitage family and their guests in Get Out love black people and are also racists. They don't even try to hide it. Sure, their racism takes a literal turn two-thirds into the movie, but Jordan Peele's point here is that there is more than one way to be a racist. Whatever is your reason of singling black people out, it's the act of singling them out and denying them normalcy that is racist. Hatred is only one face of multi-headed monster. If you're re-appropriating African-American culture to satisfy your own personal desires, whether it's because you find it more meaningful or just because it's cool than yours, you're a racist. I believe it was the point Jordan Peele was trying to make in Get Out, but i'm not sure how well it was understood across the board.
What makes Get Out a successful horror movie is that there is no clear antagonist. And by that, I mean there is no one to openly root against until the very end. There is a veneer of benevolence to everything the Armitage family does. Even when Rose's mother Missy (Catherine Keener) hypnotizes Chris and casts him into the sunken place, her motivation was (on surface) to help him quit smoking. There is no redneck frothing at the mouth or old timer dreaming of the old days of segregation in Get Out, just people who "mean well." Chris is isolated with his own fear and paranoia until he figures out the masquerade and finds a proper course of action, which was very deliberate by Jordan Peele. Chris feels objectified and desired for something he doesn't quite understand, which both makes him and the audience paranoid. Peele also said in interview that The Stepford Wives was an inspiration for Get Out and it shows. There are many parallels between the two.
I wouldn't finish this review without mentioning how beautiful Get Out is. It's been a while since I've watched such an aesthetically pleasing movie made by someone who loves and understands cinema. There are long takes and dolly shots that enhance the atmosphere of several scenes. The use of lighting is also quite subtle and moody. Get Out is very slick, but it came out at a weird time where liberal people are fighting one another about who's the most progressive and I'm quite worried this excellent movie will become the 1984 of racial politics and become that convenient dinner party discussion: "of course, I've seen Get Out. Racism is a long way from being dead." And believe me, the irony of saying that in a review where I'm claiming the exact same thing is not lost on me. If you liked Get Out as much as I did and want to get deeper into the analysis, watch this great video from Wisecrack.