Monday, March 13, 2017

Get Out (2017)

Like most thrillers or horror movies, the first half of Get Out—when the sources of tension are not yet clear, and all you know is there are intriguing and unsettling things to worry about—is better than the second half, when all unlikely ramifications must play out. Get Out also indulges today's too easy bent toward super-heroics to connect plot dots. Catherine Keener gets the honors here for powers beyond our mortal ken. Still, these weaknesses are a matter of the film's chosen form as much as anything. As a so-called comedy / horror movie, nervous laughter is what it's all about. Director and writer Jordan Peele, who I don't otherwise know, established himself first as a comic actor. This is his first directing job though not his first screenplay and it's solid, its chief strength being the peek it provides into the simmering anxieties of African-Americans attempting the post-racial thing when the only people around are white. The nightmare fantasy behind the friendly show: these smiling faces ultra-privileged whites still want to hold blacks in bondage as slaves and secretly that's exactly what they're doing. Daniel Kaluuya is Chris Washington, a young black man. Allison Williams is Rose Armitage, his white girlfriend. Rose is taking Chris home to meet her family for the first time, though she's neglected to mention to them that he's black. That wouldn't be post-racial. Understandably, that's cause for concern for Chris. More troubles: on the drive to the country estate, they accidentally hit and kill a deer, though it doesn't die right away, which shifts the picture in an instant to unpleasant realms. When the responding policeman asks for Chris's ID, Rose kicks up a stink. He wasn't driving, she says, and has no obligation to show his ID. When Chris meets the family these problems only get worse. The father, Dean (Bradley Whitford), turns unnaturally slinky and hep when he meets Chris. He wants to know how long this "thang" with his daughter has been going on. Later he tells Chris he would have voted for a third term for Barack Obama if he could have. It's one cringing moment after another, which is only complicated by the fact that all the Armitages' servants are black, and furthermore, they're acting kind of peculiar. Catherine Keener is Missy Armitage, Rose's mother and a psychiatrist who specializes in hypnosis therapy. Dean is a neurosurgeon. But all is not as it appears in this lush exurban enclave. Something is not right. That's what the movie is about and those are the scary parts, and they are better left to be discovered on your own. It's worth seeing, especially for the insights on black anxieties, as far as they go.

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