GET OUT generates so much deep-creepy unease that you could imagine the title having two more words inserted, along with an exclamation point. Making an audacious leap from skilled small-screen comedian to first-time director of a feature film, Jordan Peele clobbered a grand slam with this flawlessly done 2017 horror thriller, an instant classic. “Now, you’re in the sunken place.”
Notable photographer ‘Chris Washington’ (Daniel Kaluuya) isn’t all that thrilled about taking a trip from the city to the country to meet his girlfriend’s family, but he loves her, and ‘Rose Armitage’ (Allison Williams) seems totally cool with the idea. She’s so calm you’d think she’d had plenty of practice. Thing is, Chris is African-American and Rose is Caucasian with a capital W—and, well, this is The United States. The more things change….
….Rose’s parents, ‘Dean’ (Bradley Whitford), a neurosurgeon, and ‘Missy’ (Catherine Keener), a hypnotherapist, couldn’t be more Liberal. The African-American couple working on the estate, ‘Georgina’ (Betty Gabriel) and ‘Walter’ (Marcus Henderson) seem more than a little ‘off’, as does Rose’s younger brother ‘Jeremy’ (Caleb Landry Jones). Rose ‘forgot’ that the annual get-together of well-heeled family friends is that same weekend. Chris gets progressively rattled, and he confides over the phone to his buddy ‘Rod’ (Lil Rel Howery) who works at the TSA. Rod is suspicious as hell.
“You know I can’t give you the keys, right, babe?”
Peele wrote as well as directed this spider-web nail-biter, scoring high in both capacities, winning an Oscar for the Screenplay, and a nomination for Direction, as well as seeing his pet project going up for Best Picture and Actor (Kaluuya). While the year’s effects extravaganzas spent enough to repair entire civilizations, Peele’s debut sleeper came in for just $4,500,000. When the breathing resumed, it had reached 16th spot among the year’s releases, and had grossed $255,500,000 globally. Stars were born.
Kaluuya, 28, hit the fast-track with his bravo perception of the ensnared hero, whirlpooling decency and charm into skepticism and panic, then clawing terror, finally explosive wrath. In her first feature film role Williams, 29 (daughter of newsman Brian Williams), a ringer for Jennifer Connelly, likewise traces an arc from coy, cute and certain to calm, cold and carcinogenic, her look shifting from “come hither” to “big-game hunter” (complete with jodhpurs). Whitford and Keener are perfect choices as the phony “welcome to the family” parents you never hope to encounter, Landry-Jones is a vile cur dog as the younger brother. And–yeek!—did Betty Gabriel as ‘Georgina/Grandma’ base her eerie placid spaciness on Condaleezza Rice? The sterling supporting actor Stephen Root nails his two scenes as the blind art dealer who covets what Chris has—“I want your eye, man. I want those things you see through. Well-placed comic relief moments (blissfully not overdone) courtesy of Lil Rel Howery allow some needed breaks on a slide into a no-refund twilight zone.
Peele’s movie is a fiendishly fun nightmare, with a deep-edged satire on the Gordian knot of race relations: they may be particular to current America in this telling, but a casual look at the rest of the supposedly more enlightened world shows them to be as universal as religion’s arrays of arcane taboos. Seeing how so many people treat those who are in some way different from them is enough to make you want to…get out.
With Lakeith Stanfield, Richard Herd and Erika Alexander. Camerawork by Toby Oliver. 104 minutes.