The mind is a terrible thing to waste.
I’m going to start by saying I’m the wrong person to be reviewing Get Out. It wasn’t made for me. In fact, I’m willing to safely assume that it also wasn’t made for Caucasians, televangelists, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, alternate right supporters, and Donald Trump voters. For all intensive purposes, Get Out was made for the people that go through the profiling and discrimination that its main character goes through every day of their lives. As a heterosexual white male, I will never fully understand what people like Chris go through. All I can do is try to empathize with it.
Taking place in a homey little town that feels too much like it’s pulled straight out of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Get Out follows interracial couple Chris and Rose (Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams, respectively) for a weekend trip where they’re going to visit Rose’s white parents. And when I say these people are white, I mean they’re super white. They’re so clean-cut, well-mannered and awkwardly sociable that you start wondering if they’re real people or robots.
As Chris starts mingling with Rose’s parents and their white neighbors, he starts getting an eerie feeling that there’s something going on behind everyone’s polite manners and big smiles. The house servants, Walter (Marcus Henderson) and Georgina (Betty Gabriel) treat him with hostility. He swears he’s seen one of the black neighbors before, but he’s acting differently now. And his friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) warns him that a lot of black people went missing in the rural area that they’re at. As events start to slowly unravel, Chris makes a discovery so horrifying that he needs to escape before it grabs a hold of him. Hence the title Get Out.
While watching Get Out, I was acutely aware that while some moments were intended as satire, other moments were filled with a surprising amount of truth in them. In one scene in particular, Chris was mingling with a crowd of white neighbors, and it was very clear that they didn’t socialize with African-Americans very often. From asking questions about sports teams to grabbing his arm to see how strong he was, the neighbors’ behavior wasn’t overtly racist, but they stereotyped in the areas that mattered most. Just as I was wondering if this discrimination ever happened in modern times, a viewer next to me commented “Oh yeah, that’s happened to me before.”
I’m assuming that writer-director Jordan Peele (of “Key & Peele” fame) comes from a very personal place while writing this, because the details are just too acute to come from random imagination. In even the most subtle of moments, Peele deconstructs and elaborates on white privilege and the devastating affects it can have on individual lives. Upon their first meeting, Rose’s dad comments that he kept Walter and Georgina as house servants so that they can continue to be employed. Couldn’t he just give them a letter of recommendation? Refer them to another employer? Maybe help work towards a 401(k)? When Chris comments how too many white people can make him nervous, Georgina retaliates. Yet, tears are streaming down her face as she’s doing so.
That’s the kind of movie Get Out is: strange, surreal, and deeply unusual, but also immediately relevant to its intended audience. Is it even possible to have a culturally relevant horror film? Well if Get Out is anything to go by, then yes, it is definitely possible, and it doesn’t have to sacrifice its thrills to make an excellent point either.
Two cast members I have to praise before going any further: Daniel Kaluuya and Lil Rel Howery, who respectively delivers the films most climactic and comedic moments. Howery is the smartass friend that always has a response to everything, no matter how ridiculous or obscene it sounds. I bawled in my seat when he tried to explain to a few police officers why he felt his friend was being kidnapped and hypnotized to be sold as a sex slave, or that his status as a T.S.A. agent somehow makes him qualified to do detective work. Calm down there, Rod. You’re checking my bags, not solving a murder.
But Kaluuya is truly impressive in the center role here. He expresses both the strength and the vulnerability that allows Get Out to work as a thriller, portraying a character that is confused, scared, and victimized in a situation where no one is coming to help him. In one moment of the picture, he has to summon tears instantaneously as if he’s under a trance. Demonstrating these emotions on the spot requires either immense talent or personal experience, and I can’t help but feel Kaluuya is utilizing both during these demanding sequences.
I can already hear some of the commenters typing. “But David!” You might be saying. “White people aren’t kidnapping and terrorizing black youth!” Yes, I obviously know that, no more than I know about the nonexistence of Hogwarts, Middle-Earth, and the Force. If that is a serious concern to you, then you’re missing the point. The point very vividly depicted in Get Out, and what you really need to pay attention to, is the privilege that allows white people to appropriate African American lives and culture. And when you’re part of a society where police brutality and black imprisonment are common occurrences, is it that much of a stretch to see this film as satire?
I know some people will debate on the validity of Peele’s point of view and how accurate it is to modern society. My job is not to agree or disagree with Peele’s point, but to analyze how well he made it. And I will say without batting an eye that Get Out is one of the most creative, compelling, riveting, and darkly humorous films I’ve ever seen. It works across the board as horror, comedy, drama, or satire. Take your pick.