Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Director: Jordan Peele
Written by: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Catherine Keener, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Lil Rel Howery, Erika Alexander, Keith Stanfield
Screened at: Regal E-Walk, NYC,
Opens: February 24, 2017
Phil Ochs, a true leftie, satirized liberals as hypocrites with the 1965 song, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal.” Ochs sings, in part:
I love Puerto Ricans and Negroes
As long as they don’t move next door
So love me, love me
Love me, I’m a liberal
And I’ll send all the money you ask for
But don’t ask me to come on along
So love me, love me
Love me, I’m a liberal
It’s easy enough to skewer a racist, particularly nowadays, as it has become unfashionable in reasonably polite circles to parrot the same old tiresome clichés in referring to African-Americans. But what about liberals? Do they get off without rebuke? Just as Phil Ochs points out that people who are left of center will go only so far and no farther—contribute money to civil rights causes but not take part in demonstrations—so does Jordan Peele in his debut directing role. Peele is not nearly as timid as Ochs, though. He is not the sort of screenwriter/director who points out in a most genteel manner that white liberals are “full of it.” In “Get Out” he sees whites as people who are so uncomfortable around blacks that they have to say how much they admire Tiger Woods, or how they would have voted for Obama for a third term, or how Jesse Owens really showed up those Nazis in the 1936 Munich Olympics. Since satire requires exaggeration, Peele goes the distance, indicating that genteel whites may invite blacks to their homes, welcome them to their neighborhoods, smile when their daughters date African-Americans and even feel just dandy if their daughters want to marry these boyfriends. Yet they still feel a sense of ownership somehow that black people, though certainly a lot more than servants, exist largely as an auxiliary to their own privileged, pale skin.
Few films have captured this dimension. Here’s one off the bat; Robert Downey Sr.’s 1969 “Putney Swope,” wherein African-Americans take over the running of an advertising corporation, hire one white guy for diversity, and show how they would change the culture we expect of the Fortune 500.
“Get Out” will be greatly enjoyed by the more educated and more mature folks who come to see it for the satire. It will be at least equally enjoyed by those who like visceral action, who are looking for a psychological thriller that they can feel deep-down on a gut level, one whose buildup leads to a conclusion that could knock them out of their seats. This is because “Get Out,” which gets its title because one of its black characters shouts this out a few times, is the most exciting film of its type in many years.
This is the real thing, readers, involving a blend of talents that capture the suspicion between the races, blithely covered over by false bonhomie. Its direction by Peele (catch his shtick on Key and Peele on youtube at https://video.search.yahoo.com /search/video?fr=mcafee&p=key+ %26+peele+youtube#id=2&vid=4fe 62182ebcb66159283f185dfc471cc& action=click) evokes superlative performances from the entire ensemble. The cinematography and special effects are spot-on, particularly in scenes that depict the main performer’s hypnosis. The filming location, Fairhope, Alabama, is just right for illustrating the estate owned by two upper-class professionals. The screenplays toys with us in the audience, throws in some twists that you will not see coming, and ends in the expected bloodshed, filmed with love by Toby Oliver behind the lens, backed up perfectly by Michael Abels’ spooky music.
And where has Daniel Kaluuya been? In the principal role of Chris Washington, he is in virtually every frame, displaying a huge range of expressions and emotions from those of a vaguely uncomfortable guest of the family of his current squeeze Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), to a confused role when he meets some of the “brothers” at a lawn party, and ultimately to full-scale murderous rage when he discovers what the white folks at this party have in store.
To sum up without spoilers: Rose Armitage’s parents, Miss Armitage (Catherine Keener) is a psychiatrist specializing in hypnosis while her husband, Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), performs neurosurgery. They have a couple of black servants (as for why they refuse to hire white servants comes out clearly enough). If 20-something Rose dotes on her parents, so Chris depends on a very special best friend, Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery) in the role of a TSA employee who stands in for the story’s comic relief. He is, how can one put it, funny as all get-out. When Chris goes missing, Rod reports his concern to a trio of detectives who burst out laughing—as you will too. (Note that Shakespeare put comedy into his great tragedy “Hamlet,” but those gravediggers are not half as amusing as Lil Rel Howery).
“Get Out,” then is a race-conscious thriller that veers from a comedy of manners to a visceral thriller, to a conclusion of all-out horror. You probably will not see a better picture of this genre—and remember this is from a debut director!—for the remainder of the year. Nothing quite like it recently.
Rated R. 103 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers? Agree? Disagree? Why?