It’s interesting to see how far Jordan Peele has come when you know he’s one half of Key & Peele, a notorious comedy duo on American shores. That comedy background takes a back seat, instead a much more serious tone is present in Get Out, his first feature film. It’s also the first film by a black writer/director to make over $100m, an incredible achievement that marries with the themes of the film itself.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, Skins), a young black man has been dating a white girl, Rose (AlisonWilliams, Girls) for 5 months and the inevitable weekend trip to meet the parents is upon him. Soon after arriving, he’s hyper-aware of the absence of black people in the neighbourhood, except for two ‘servants’ (a term coined by Rose’s father) that on first glance seem etherial, distant in their communications with others. Their actions are unnerving and send your mind into curiosity from the start. Soon after, you learn that Rose’s mother is a psychiatrist (alarm bells), using hypnosis to treat people’s addictions and habits (more alarm bells; also bigger). After Chris has a sleepless night and witnessing some extremely odd behaviour from Rose’s families ‘servants’, the mother catches him off guard and invites him in to a therapy session for his smoking habit. From that point on, the film gets incredibly weird and almost guarantees you’ll raise an eyebrow in either shock or just plain WTFness.
The film stands its ground because of the acting all round. Kaluuya sincerely deserves the praise he is getting, making you completely forget about Samuel L Jackson’s seething hit on British actors playing Americans. You connect with Chris and share in his position of uncertainty and disbelief of what’s actually happening. Alison Williams plays the doting girlfriend well enough that you’ll be second guessing her character up until the end.
The parents, played by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener give both warm, embracing family energy and sheer nightmare energy that many will relate to the first parent meet (think ‘welcome to the family, but hurt my daughter and I’ll kill you’ vibes). Performances throughout the cast are strong enough to keep the story moving, but it’s the narrative itself that lets the film down.
It’s a ‘social thriller’ but it plays with its genre classification to make sure you don’t know what’s coming. One minute you’re watching a cute romantic movie, the next a proper thriller, crossing to a horror story with a side serving of comedy. It means that your investment in one part of the film is completely lost when it shifts to another mood, but it’s also not strong enough a contrast to make you have an emotional reaction to the battle of the genres.
There’s a character that’s obviously there for comic relief (A definite reference to Peele’d comedy background), but these scenes are such a tangent that you feel like another film has crashed the party which doesn’t come off good. It also dips into truly awful moments of spelling out things for audiences in the way an annoying kid would narrate his day continuously…no one needs that.
By the end of Get Out, you do feel there’s a sense of closure and can understand at least some of the unaligned decisions. With all the imperfections, it’s such an intriguing and important film for this age because of the subject matter; conversations around race are more relevant than ever and Peele’s stark look at objectification and physicality is unlike any film I’ve seen. It doesn’t rely on prior techniques of telling a story, instead the film finds its own way of laying out its story; there wasn’t a point at which I knew what was going to happen, a rarity in cinema these days. As a debut, this film deserves the praise it’s getting, but for any of Peele’s next 4 films (yeah, he already has 4 more greenly projects), it’s going to take a little more time at the drawing board to get it right.