By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
This December will be the 50th anniversary of the release of Stanley Kramer’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, a movie that examines a love story between a black man and a white woman and the reactions of their parents. Between then and now, romantic interracial relationships have found a much greater acceptance in American society and the Civil Rights movement has achieved some wonderful advances. There have been some positive changes in race relations since then. However, as indicated by racially charged events in recent years, there is still much room for improvement. African-Americans have not yet achieved complete equality on all fronts. Prejudice and racism still exists, even though it often comes with a friendly facade. This is the key theme examined by Jordan Peele’s directorial debut Get Out, a brilliant satire on race relations between black and white people and one that mixes horror with a dash of comedy and hearty serving of social commentary.
Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris Washington, a gifted photographer in love with his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). Chris and Rose nervously travel to Rose’s parents’ home so that she can introduce him for the first time. Chris is particularly uneasy, as Rose has not mentioned his race to her parents, and does not know how they will react. At first, the friendly and disarming personalities of Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener) abate any trepidation he has about the meeting. It seems like Rose’s parents have gone out of their way to make him feel welcome because of his race. As the weekend continues, Chris grows increasingly precarious of their intentions and even more uncomfortable when the black housekeeping staff begin acting bizarrely. As things get even more bizarre and stranger during his time there, Chris feels that all of the friendly smiles and exuberant courtesy might mask something far more sinister.
Written and directed by Jordan Peele, Get Out is an intelligently written and solidly directed horror-thriller that delivers shocks, creepy suspense, and delightful variety of humor. The film does suffer from a few horror cliches, but thankfully, these do not occur too often in the film. Peele does an exceptional job of creating and uncomfortable situation, adding a false feeling of security and slowly building the tension to a disturbing and surprising crescendo. Peele flavors all of this with a biting and sometimes witty commentary on racism, race relations, and racial stereotypes. Considering that this is Jordan Peele’s very first film as a director makes the final product all the more impressive.
Peele and his casting department have also selected an impressive cast for the movie. Bradley Whitford is perfectly cast as the overly-friendly, too eager-to-please father Dean. Catherine Keener brings a more scrutinous eye and slightly duplicitous feel to mother Missy. Allison Williams portrays Chris’s girlfriend Rose as sweet and loving young woman with a no-nonsense conviction and attitude. Caleb Landry Jones performs well as Rose’s brother Jeremy, a bit of an alpha-male punk who loves pushing people’s buttons. The film also stars Stephen Root, Ashley LeConte Campbell and Geraldine Singer as some of the all-too-friendly smiling faces Chris encounters and Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel, and Lakeith Stanfield as the bizarrely
As for the role of Chris, Daniel Kaluuya delivers an exceptional performance, perfectly conveying the initial discomfort and unease anyone in his situation would feel when meeting a girlfriend’s parents, family and family friends. He also does a fantastic job of expressing fear, sadness, and other necessary emotions to make the scenarios feel more realistic, even when things get insane. I would be doing my readers and any parties interested in this film a serious disservice (in addition to the actor, himself) if I do not acknowledge the absolutely hilarious breakout performance of LilRel Howery. Howery stars as Chris’s best friend Rod Williams, a TSA officer Chris regularly consults via telephone during the weekend. Howery provides most of the riotous comedy in the film and his appearances had me laughing consistently. He makes for a most welcome scene stealer.
That is not to say that his presence was needed to save this movie from falling apart. He is simply the icing on an already delicious thriller. Jordan Peele has certainly already proven himself with his comedic writing and performances in MADtv, Key and Peele, and the movie Keanu. However, with this directorial debut, he proves himself as a great writer, and even better director who can deliver astute material and present it in a highly entertaining way. In a time when black voices need to be heard and need to reach out to more audiences, Peele has come up with a brilliantly accessible movie that expresses those feelings. America may have come a long way since Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but during those fifty years some things haven’t changed while other problems have either gotten worse or hidden behind a friendly facade.