Get Out is a horror/thriller written and directed by Jordan Peele of comedy duo Key & Peele, about a black man (Daniel Kaluuya) who goes with his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) to meet her family (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) and finds himself subjected to a cavalcade of horrors. The story is peppered with references to many things that infect everyday conversations between black and white people. And by infect I mean that they turn what is supposed to be inconsequential small talk into a source of constant irritation for black people.
Rose (Williams) is taking Chris (Kaluuya) to meet her parents; Chris is apprehensive in the first place but even more when Rose reveals she hasn’t told her Mom and Dad that her boyfriend is black. Her insistence that it’ll be ok because her folks would have voted for Obama a third time is the first of many ‘they don’t hate black people, see?’ signifiers that have the opposite effect as intended.
Along the way we’re treated to a series of clues that Rose and her family are a lot scarier than they let on and Chris, despite getting more and more creeped out by them, the hired help, and the family friends, doesn’t quite put it all together without falling into serious danger. And then we get the big reveals and the final conflicts between Chris and who we find the actual bad guys to be.
I really appreciate them keeping the gore to a minimum. I’m not a horror movie guy to start with, so a lot of blood and guts would have kept from seeing this in the first place. This was way more creepy than bloody and I think that makes for better horror films. Movies like Saw where the focus is on the body count and how nasty each kill can be just aren’t for me.
The buildup to the major reveals was well done and not too obvious; there were hints and clues dropped along the way but no super huge warning signs five minutes in. You have to figure it out along with Chris as opposed to just watching him miss all the clues as you shake your head at him. The family is creepy but so many possible culprits are introduced that it’s not clear right away just who is doing what and how.
The not so subtle social commentary is very well done, as we get a full gamut of the kinds of irritations black people often suffer daily during interactions with white people who are trying to do everything to appear that they aren’t racist except, you know, talk to us like we’re people and not alien visitors or zoo animals. From the name dropping Tiger Woods to checking out our muscle definition by touching us to saying they would vote for Obama a third time if they could, they were all there.
Another big theme Peele explores is the ill expressed admiration that bleeds into resentful envy towards black people by seemingly well meaning white people. It’s the kind of thing that plays out on a daily basis on sports talk radio, where many a disgruntled fan chimes to voice their displeasure with the men and women they cheer for. Throughout the first two acts of the film there are tales spun by Rose’s family and friends of physical inferiority to black people, believed to be complimentary but received by Chris as patronizing insults. And as black man I found that all too relatable. No matter what parts of Chris’ experience differ from yours that one did not.
(In case you’re wondering, telling your black friend or acquaintance how the black people you played sports with in high school were more physically gifted than you isn’t a way to score points. It’s as insulting in real life as it was for Chris in the movie. Stop trying to figure how to score points and just talk to us like we’re from the same species. In general stop trying so hard. It isn’t helping as much as you think. In fact, it usually makes things a lot worse.)
Lastly I have to give credit to Peele for the biggest plot decision of the movie – what to do with Rose. There were possible storylines that would have made her more heroic, but not without fundamentally changing the broader message of the film and watering down what makes it really stick with you. It was very courageous to take the type of character whose virtues we’ve all been socialized to believe in and make her less than worthy of such faith. Williams herself was astonished at how hard it was for some people to accept that Rose wasn’t a total innocent who was being forced or coerced into some of the choices she made. That choice, to go against the grain in such a major way, is what makes this more than a run of the mill horror/suspense film.
As far as things I found wanting, I’d say the main one for me is that we didn’t get enough background on how Chris and Rose got together. Was Chris just a guy looking for love (if you saw the movie you know Rose’s motivation), or was he drawn to Rose by some or all of the taboos and stereotypes that exist within the ideas people have about interracial dating? In my opinion there were some fork in the road moments in the movie that needed that part of the backstory filled in.
To me, knowing more about that would better explain how long it took Chris to figure some things out, and why he made certain decisions at the end. Leaving that has opened the floodgates on social media for everyone to speculate on Chris’ viewpoint based on their personal experiences, and to extrapolate all kinds of deeper meanings from how the movie plays out. I would have liked at least a little bit of a window into how Chris saw their relationship.
In the same vein, in my opinion Rose’s brother could have been cut out. I thought what he added in creepiness only made Chris’ inability to see the forest for the trees less believable. It’s one thing to dismiss your girlfriends’ parents weirdness but when her sibling has clearly picked it up too then it’s a lot more difficult to think that she would somehow be immune from it.
It’s really good. The gore was saved for when it fit as opposed to just being thrown there gratuitously. There were a number of moments that will make you jump, as well as some hilarious moments when they go for comic relief. And the underlying message of how fraught with peril black people find even banal interactions with white people sometimes is spot on for the times we live in. I definitely recommended this one.