Sometimes the best social commentary movies are genre films. More often than not, those are the cleverest at it. “Get Out” fills that task to a T.
Jordan Peele’s directing debut is a cunningly worked-out racial satire in the form of a truly unnerving horror movie. Also written by the Key & Peele comedian, it’s a well-controlled work that builds dread through subtle strains of absurdity before turning into a full-blown, jump-scary nailbiter.
Additionally, its nuanced critique of embedded racism in the Obama-voting, white upper class can be unpacked for days, as can the film’s take on justified-or-not black paranoia.
While “Hidden Figures” and “Loving” offer more inspirational looks at race relations, “Get Out” is the movie that delivers hard truths that we all need to hear, in a manner that makes us squirm in more ways than one.
There’s also a master class in comic relief going on here, but back to that in a bit. First, the setup.
Arty New York photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya, from British TV’s “Skins”) is about to accompany girlfriend Rose (“Girls’ ” Allison Williams) upstate to meet her parents when he discovers that she hasn’t let them know he’s African-American. A bit concerned but cool about it, Chris takes the trip to their semirural property, where mom Missy (Catherine Keener), a psychiatrist, and dad Dean (Bradley Whitford), a surgeon, greet him with open arms, if a tad awkwardly.
Chris quickly realizes that Rose was right about her folks being open-minded sorts, but it’s their servants (Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson) who act weird and standoffish. Matters grow more alarming after Missy insists on hypnotizing Chris to help him quit smoking. Then a call to his pal in the city, Rod (“The Carmichael Show’s” Milton “Lil Rel” Howery), informs Chris that a number of young black men have gone missing in the vicinity.
While Kaluuya does an impressive job of balancing the easygoing face Chris shows to the world with the character’s inner conflicts, Howery is this movie’s secret weapon. Introduced as a bumbling, excitable TSA agent, Rod later emerges as an obsessive amateur detective. He’s outraged but so, so wants it to be true that the missing men are being held as sex slaves; nevertheless, Rod’s the first to have a clue about what’s really going on. It’s hilarious, and it pays off beautifully in terms of plot.
There’s some kind of genius in how Peele mixes terror, laughs and addressing prejudice like we’ve never seen it done before. Certain bits, whether funny or frightening, are staged and paced with skill rarely displayed by a first-time director, too. Peele obviously put a lot into “Get Out,” and he’s proven with it that he’s got a lot more than comic expertise to offer.
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