Get Out (2017)
Dir. Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener,
LilRel Howery, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, Caleb Landry Jones
Review By Greg Klymkiw
A few minutes into watching Get Out, a mostly chilling and funny horror-thriller with a decidedly satirical bent, I briefly took myself out of the drama and asked myself:
"Have I seen too many movies?"
The reason for this self-reflection? Simple. I pretty much pegged all of the "surprises" in the picture's narrative about twenty minutes into it. It's not that the clues were obviously boneheaded, but rather, the movie almost went out of its way to "carefully" shield us from them and, frankly, having seen it all, I just knew where things were headed. Once again I was watching a movie I wanted to love and realized I just couldn't love it because the clever thematic and directorial touches were being cancelled out by the glaring inevitability of the unfolding drama.
Now, was this the movie's fault or my own?
"Good question" he said to himself in added self-reflection.
Surely, I surmised, that when I'm on a roller coaster ride, I know precisely where I'm going and if it's a good ride, it really shouldn't matter. Well, true enough, but the fact remains that Get Out had so much more potential to transcend the simple properties of the ride itself. In spite of my occasional sinking feelings, I was able to concede that there was a decent ride to be had, even for seen-it-all curmudgeons like myself.
Mind you, the movie doesn't get off to the best start. It begins with a hackneyed de rigueur horror movie preamble that telegraphs what's to follow wherein a young African-American male wanders through a lush White-American suburban dreamscape of perfect lawns and hedges. He's clearly lost and definitely nervous. And yes, something shocking happens.
However, I forgave this by-rote entry point and settled in. For awhile, I did indeed succumb to writer-director Jordan Peele's Stepford Wives-like thriller about racism in America.
|Lily-white babe-o-licious girlfriends CANNOT be trusted.|
Dark, handsome African-American Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and pristine babe-o-licious lily-white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) are happily cohabiting in miscegenetic bliss and preparing for a weekend trip to meet and stay with Rose's parents. Chris asks Rose if she's told her folks that he's Black. She tosses it off as being completely unnecessary - Mommy (Catherine Keener) and Daddy (Bradley Whitford) are far too cool for any of that. Chris expresses trepidation nevertheless, but eventually accepts Rose's confidence that everything will be okay.
Of course, things will not be okay.
On the way up, with Rose driving, they hit a deer and swerve off the road slightly. There's no damage to the car and neither of them are injured, something that annoys a local lawman - he feels they should have called "animal control" rather than "waste" his time. No matter, this gives him a chance to roust Chris, demanding to see our hero's I.D. even though Rose explains that she was behind the wheel, not Chris.
Once they get to Rose's family home, her Mom and Dad seem to be the epitome of cultured White Liberals, but Dad betrays hints of ethnocentrism when he refers to his daughter's relationship with Chris as a "thang" and goes out of his way to extol the virtues of Obama. Rose's creepy brother (Caleb Landry Jones) displays an unhealthy obsession with athleticism and physical prowess, especially as it relates to race and even creepier are the live-in African-American domestics Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel) who appear to be refugees from Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
One sequence that Peele delivers the goods on involves Mom actually hypnotizing Chris late one evening. Though it involves the unfortunate narrative trope of Chris feeling guilt over his own mother's death, we are able to suppress this and enjoy Peele's extraordinary visual take on hypnosis itself and especially relish Catherine Keener's juicy turn as a "caring" psychiatrist. For me, Keener has always displayed a kind of earnest creepiness in everything she's done. Here, she fits the role like a glove.
The movie reaches a damn glorious pinnacle during a garden party at the family home when Chris is trotted out before a passel of grotesque denizens of White American affluence - all of whom seem obsessed with the young man's physical attributes.
|White Liberals Ain't All They Cracked Up To Be.|
It's not long after this, though, that the movie descends into a goofy, loopy sequence wherein Peele lays out a whole whack of expository information as to what is precisely going on (which, we've pretty much figured out anyway). The manner in which it's presented probably looked great on paper, but it slows the movie down in ways that force us to question the logic of why the explanations are delivered to Chris (and by extension to us). Given the sharpness of the film's satire and the occasional flashes of genuine, original horror touches, it's disappointing that the film didn't deal with this information far more expediently.
Luckily, Peele recovers from this fairly major fumble and he serves up one of the more delightfully scary and juicily violent climaxes in recent memory. For me, the movie's lapses were forgiven - almost. Alas, Peele cops out and hands us a ludicrous feel-good ending (involving the film's tiresome comic relief provided by Lil Rel Howery as Chris's TSA officer buddy) which is completely out-of-step with the 70s-style thrillers his film clearly aspires to.
And then, there's that problem of knowing who is who (especially that his girlfriend is part of the "conspiracy"), what is what and where it's all going to go. Is it my problem? No. I don't think so, ultimately. The movie's script, in spite of its clever touches, feels idiot-proofed to a fault. In fact, the whole thing might have been even more chilling and a lot braver if Peele was upfront and exposed his whole deck of cards from the get-go. When a movie flirts with a kind of greatness as this one does, I find it very hard to cotton to idiot-proofing of any kind.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** Three-Stars
Get Out is a Universal Pictures release.