Get Out opened with over $33 million this weekend to take top spot at the box office. Written and directed by Jordan Peele, one-half of the comedy duo Key & Peele, Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario) as Chris, a black guy going to meet his white girlfriend’s family for the first time. From the beginning Peele sets up a racial dynamic that feels uncomfortably real. Chris is a photographer with a nice city apartment—the kind of job and digs usually given to white romantic leads—and his girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), is pretty and funny and sincere when she says her parents aren’t racist. “My dad would have voted for Obama three times, if he could,” she says. “And he’ll tell you that.” And he does. Rose’s parents, Dean and Missy—played by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener, respectively—are the kind of affluent liberal white people who can’t be racist because they consider their black servants to be “like family”.
Appearances matter in Get Out, and Peele lets his camera linger a beat too long, capturing nervous twitches and facial tics that give away inner conflict long before the gloves come off in act three. Chris is uncomfortable from the beginning, when they hit a deer and the cop who shows up to help them asks for his ID even though he wasn’t driving. It gets worse at Rose’s family home, which could be anywhere in the US but with its white columns and rocking chairs on the porch strongly suggests a different era. That whiff of antebellum get stronger when Chris meets the groundskeeper and housekeeper, both black. “I know how this looks,” Dean says apologetically.
Peele ratchets up the tension steadily as Dean and Missy try too hard to ingratiate themselves with Chris, and then their possibly alcoholic son (Caleb Landry Jones) tries to wrestle Chris at dinner. It’s the world’s worst family meet-n-greet, and that’s before the horde of infirm white people show up and Chris realizes the only other black guy around, Logan (Lakeith Stanfield, Atlanta), is someone he knows. As things grow weirder Peele winds the tension tighter until Chris is in a full-blown panic, convinced Missy is messing with his mind via hypnosis. At this point, Get Out shifts into high gear and hold onto your butts because it gets WEIRD.
But it also gets very funny. Lil Rel Howery (The Carmichael Show) pops up as Chris’s best friend, TSA agent Rod. Get Out very much needs a pressure release valve, and Howery’s performance is perfectly calculated comic relief, and also informs the audience’s conscience throughout the film. Rod provides a running commentary that shouldn’t work but somehow does, between the incredibly well constructed plot and Howery’s natural comedic charm.
Peele wades into deep waters, musing on race relations, prejudice, and the special kind of thoughtless racism that comes from white liberal America. Get Out explores how America takes and takes from black culture and black bodies without ever considering how black people are trapped into this unwilling cycle by stringent social mores and rules predicated on the idea of “getting along”. If that sounds heavy, it is, but Peele pivots so nimbly between horror, drama, and comedy that momentum is never lost.
Get Out would be a great film on an established director’s resume, but coming from a newbie? Unbelievable. This is an OUTSTANDING debut film from Jordan Peele, who firmly establishes himself as one of the most vital and critical voices in American cinema. It’s outrageous how good Get Out is. Don’t like horror? Don’t care. See it anyway.
Here’s Jordan on The Late Late Show with James Corden and promoting Get Out at AOL Build last week.