Director and writer Jordan Peale’s “Get Out” is a curious film. Both critics and audiences love it (the film earned a rare 100% rating on the popular Rotten Tomatoes viewer review site), and early Oscar buzz for this year is already underway. What’s so “in” about “Get Out?” To truly appreciate the fun of this film, AVOID watching the trailer at all costs. Here’s a quick summary – mild spoiler alert ahead.
Driven by a heady mix of romance, mystery, horror and political commentary, “Get Out” tells the story of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a young, good-looking African-American gent invited to the country for a family week-end getaway by his beautiful and open-minded Caucasian girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). “Does your family know I am black?” asks Chris of Rose as the film opens. Never has such a seemingly innocuous question had such terrifying repercussions. Peale’s film takes the classic Sidney Poitier’esque “Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner?” interracial “black guy meets white family” theme and blows it up. Literally.
Peale, who cut his teeth with the comedy duo “Key and Peale,” has tons of fun building up “Get Out’s” “creepy” factor, beginning with a flying deer clipped by Rose’s car as she and Chris drive their way to white middle class suburbia. Upon investigation, Chris watches the deer’s life slowly ebb from its eyes as it expires at forest’s edge, while heroic Rose confronts a white cop who wants to check her black boyfriend’s ID.
Run, deer Chris, run! But no.
Upon arrival at the Armitage family home, Chris is greeted by Rose’s oh-so-liberal white parents. “I would have voted for Obama for a third term,” exclaims Rose’s father Dean (Bradford Whitford, with just the right amount of pleasant menace), while mother Missy (a gloriously radiant Catherine Keener) mysteriously hypnotizes Chris in the wee hours of his first night. Once Rose’s twitchy brother Jeremy (the edgy Caleb Landry Jones) arrives for the weekend, we know things are going to go horribly wrong. Black house servants stare vacantly, coming and going with barely a whisper. White guests begin to arrive for a strangely sinister weekend fiesta. Awkward dinner conversations are paired beside hilarious “check in” phone calls between Chris and his black friend, a TSA agent named Rod (LilRel Howery, having the time of his life): “they’re kidnapping black people and turning them into sex slaves! Or worse!” he warns Chris.
Much worse, as it turns out. What begins as a tragi-comic inquiry into race relations, PC-style liberalism, and white privilege gradually morphs into terror as things fall apart at the Armitage home. Peale gradually turns up the heat, and by the last twenty minutes, he will have you covering your eyes, screaming, and running for the exit. Whether or not Peale’s film provokes any deeper or critical inquiry is an open question – while his story is chock full of symbolic and metaphorical references to the history of institutionalized racism, such subtleties are trumped by the sheer horror of it all by film’s end. Get out, indeed.