Get Out ✮✮✮
By Glenn Lovell
The first really interesting film of the new year comes compliments of funnyman-turned-social satirist Jordan Peele, who apprenticed on “MADtv” until making his feature writing debut last year with the comic caper “Keanu.” Peele’s “Get Out” is a remarkedly assured black comedy (pun intended) that relies on exploitation tropes (startle effects, etc.) to comment on what the Black Lives Matter movement has insisted all along: though white liberal Americans may fool themselves into thinking otherwise, racism still permeates suburban gated communities. Only now it’s more hidden and pernicious, and, consequently, a whole lot scarier.
Marketed as a socially aware horror film, a sort of hybrid of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and the original “The Wicker Man,” that sinister British conspiracy thriller, Peele’s take on post-Obama America stars Daniel Kaluuya (“Sicario”) and Allison Williams (“Girls”) as Chris Washington and Rose Armitage, an interracial couple on display, and Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener as Rose’s suspiciously smug (in their bleeding heart liberalism) parents.
Daddy’s a neurosurgeon, no less; Mom’s a psychiatrist who dabbles in parlor hypnotherapy. Both want to get into their weekend guest’s head.
Chris surmises (correctly) that Rose hasn’t told her parents her new boyfriend’s black. Not to worry, she says. They’re color blind. “Dad would have voted for Obama a third time, if he could have,” Rose adds by way of reassurance.
Chris remains skeptical. Reluctantly, he agrees to meet the Armitages. His naturally paranoid buddy Rod (standup Lil Rel Howery), a TSA agent, doesn’t like anything about the setup and advises Chris to stay away. Rose’s parents probably run a sex-slave operation, he says more than once.
In upper-crust suburbia things get weird fast. The Armitages live-in help are both black, at least in skin color. But they strike Chris as oddly familiar and arrogant in their dealings with their employers. Maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) has the run of the place and is forever watching. In conversations, her emotions and facial expressions don’t jibe; she smiles broadly at Chris as tears stream down her cheeks. For his part groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) is more than a little threatening, accusatory.
To say more would ruin a number of devilish twists. Suffice it to say, Chris finds himself in a surface-cozy variation on Stepford, Conn., a slightly askew reality in which nothing is as it seems. Peele is obviously a filmmaker to watch. His funny and unnerving first feature can be taken as a warning to people of color in Trump’s America. Remain vigilant. Follow your instincts. If the welcome mat seems a little too gaudy and insistent, keep moving. It’s probably a trap.
GET OUT ✮✮✮ With Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel. Written, directed by Jordan Peele. 103 min. Rated R (for language, violence, disturbing images)