★★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Simply put, a horror movie masterpiece.
Jordan Peele’s movie writing-directorial debut is a stunning achievement, representing what is possible in the medium given the right vision, the right cast, the right story, and the right moment. This is one of those movies that crosses into the mainstream consciousness and, in my honest hope, a gateway to horror films for the uninitiated, and is one of the reasons why I have started this blog/podcast. The Horror genre can be a beautiful and prophetic storytelling medium, in the right hands.
The story would be simple enough: A young interracial couple Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) are preparing to have the first “Meet the parents moment”, and Chris is nervous since he’s a black man dating a white woman. Rose assures Chris that her folks are going to love him, as they voted for Obama and are good woke liberals. And, upon initial introductions, all does seem to be well. The parents, surgeon Dean (Bradley Whitford) and psychologist Missy (Catherine Keener) do seem to be charmed by Chris, in an awkward trying-to-hard way.
Things begin to unravel when Chris is subjected to some of Missy’s hypnosis specialty and becomes further troubling after meeting the glazed-over house servants, who just so happen to be subservient African Americans. Hmmmm… curious. A house party where a number of the Armitage friends attend, appearing to be oddly fascinated with Chris is when the tension really ramps up. To say any more will be to spoil the brilliant twists to come.
What Peele has managed to present is a full array of the racial tensions of modern America, without being preachy or ham-fisted. This is a dark, cutting satire that examines our history of slavery, racial appropriation, interracial dating, and examines all the latent racial prejudices and stereotypes in our culture. I’m an Asian American, so perhaps I’m a third party observer… but I get it. In this Trumped-up culture having something so vividly lay bare the cultural divide was brilliantly done. Peele managed to pull all this off, without making it feel like the audience is being shamed. This is not just a movie with a lot to say, but it is brilliantly shot, and unspooled with a Hitchcockian verve and timing. The comic elements are howlingly funny (particular kudos to LilRel Howery for his paranoid TSA Aggent Rod… who delivers most of the best lines in the film).
And, this is a HORROR MOVIE. It was marketed as one, and it delivered the horror. Not with jump scares, but with the horrifying context. (So rewarding!) There are scant few Horror movies that get nominated for an Oscar, and I am willing to put good money that this will get nods for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor. This movie will join Jaws, The Exorcist, Silence of the Lambs, and The Sixth Sense as the proud few Horror movie nominees. If it wins Best Picture, it joins Silence of the Lambs… and for my money Get Out is a more significant cultural statement and a more enjoyable film. I will be rooting for Get Out to win it all!