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Get Out
USA 2017
Directed by Jordan Peele
Running time 130 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Synopsis: Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams) head  for a weekend meet-the-parents getaway in upstate New York with Allison’s parents, Missy and Dean (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford). At  first, Chris reads the family's overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter's interracial relationship but as the weekend progresses Chris realizes that he needs to get out of there.

The 2017 Best Picture Oscar-winner Moonlight garnered lavish praise as a bench-mark for Afro-American film-making but I haven’t  heard a peep about Afro-American writer-director Jordan Peele’s impressively original, skillfully executed and somewhat provocative film. Perhaps this is because Get Out is a genre film, a horror/thriller with a touch of comedy, that doesn’t wear its sensitivities on its sleeve.  

The beating and, to pun somewhat, bleeding heart of Get Out is its inter-racial relationship.  Chris, a quietly-spoken art photographer is much more aware of the social difficulties of such a liaison than Allison, a modish young woman from a well-to-do liberal background who blithely ignores his concerns.  The narrative is essentially a confirmation of Chris’s apprehensions, albeit one taken to a hyperbolic level.

The first test of the relationship comes on the trip upstate when Allison’s car hits and kills a deer on the highway.  The death, amplified by the startling sound design that is an impactful presence throughout the film is also the first indication that Get Out is not going to be your Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner-style inter-racial dramedy. Chris is disconcerted by the fact that Allison’s parents employ a couple of strangely-detached black domestics (Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson).  Then Missy, a hypnotherapist puts him in a trance and takes him back to a childhood trauma.  So far, not what you’d call a relaxing weekend away but when a get-together with a large number of the parents’ elderly, well-to-do friends starts to look like a scene from The Stepford Wives (1975) Chris finally realizes that something weird is going on. As is typical of the horror genre, of course Chris’s realization comes too late and from this point on suspicion and apprehension turn into full-on nightmare. From this point on too the film loses much of its charm as Peele takes us through a standard progression of confrontations to an inevitable outcome. The only real positive here is that it is expeditiously handled.

I don’t see a lot of horror films and have never seen any of the Scream parodies with which I suspect Peele's film has some affinities but in my book Get Out is a refreshing take on a genre that has at-best limited appeal beyond its questionably-devoted fan-base. There is some gore but it is a small component and Peele does not dwelt upon it.  Adding to the film’s success, the cast is uniformly strong with Daniel Kaluuya a sympathetic focal point, Allison Williams captivating as a girl-next-door cutie-pie and LilRel Howery  amusing as Chris’ best friend, a jive-talkin’ security guard.  The racial theme no doubt will garner much more debate in the U.S. where the film has been a huge box office success, than here but I can imagine Spike Lee giving it two thumbs up.

Either way Get Out is a cleverly conceived and smartly executed film whose intelligence far exceeds the genre's usual threshold.

 

 

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