There’s something not quite right about the Armitages. They seem pleasant and accepting enough, friendly and hospitable on the surface, yet there’s something… just odd about them. The hired help—a standoffish gardener and a stiffly-courteous maid—are definitely off, their clipped conversational styles especially awkward.
Rose Armitage (Allison Williams, channeling Amanda Peet) is bringing her boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) to the family homestead for the first time. What she hasn’t told her well-to-do parents—played by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener—and spaced-out brother (Caleb Landry Jones, channeling Brad Dourif) is that Chris is black. Rose’s family isn’t.
“Do they know I’m black?” “Should they?” “You might wanna… you know?” “Mom and Dad, my black boyfriend will be coming up this weekend. I just don’t want you to be shocked that he’s a black man. That?”
What Rose has neglected to tell Chris is that her parents—psychiatrist Mom and neurosurgeon Dad—have African-American servants. Does it matter? Well, it makes for an uncomfortable dynamic, certainly. And things are about to get a whole lot more uncomfortable in Get Out, Jordan Peele’s striking directorial debut.
Peele, half of Comedy Central”s successful Key & Peele, wrote as well as directed Get Out, a smart and well-crafted psychological horror film with an underlying and unusually powerful social critique of modern American racism. The film pays homage to such classics as The Stepford Wives, The Shining, and Night of the Living Dead, slowly building the viewer’s creeping suspicion that Something Is Not Right. Key & Peele fans have come to expect a lot of silly humor underscored by sharp satire, but in this film Peele shows his true metal with a few genuine laughs, a fair number of scares, and a boatload of dark, disturbing realities. Lil Rel Howery, who plays Chris’s dog-sitting best friend, TSA agent Rod Williams, provides most of the much-needed humor, and Betty Gabriel is especially effective as the delicate family housekeep Georgina—there’s one scene in particular in which she does a remarkable job, in full close-up, of revealing her character’s impossible internal conflicts.
Get Out succeeds by taking a fairly-standard horror format and invigorating it with a visceral social element. Add to that uniformly strong performances, keen writing, and surprisingly assured direction and you’ve got a doozy of a motion picture.
(c) 2017 David N. Butterworth