For five seasons, Key and Peele never hesitated to challenge us with a brand of humor that was simultaneously pitch dark and downright hilarious, though if you weren't paying attention you might miss the fact that they were directing their pointedly satirical fingers directly at you. The comedy duo never hesitated to tackle difficult themes, at times in remarkably palatable ways and, more often than not, in squirm-inducing, laugh so you don't cry ways.
So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Get Out, the feature film directing debut of Jordan Peele, is a master class in filmmaking and an absolutely stunning debut by Peele that perfectly integrates a dark, satirical undercurrent into a film that is equal parts effective horror flick and laugh out loud comedy.
Daniel Kaluuya stars as 26-year-old Chris, an African-American male and the boyfriend to white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams), whose parents he is about to meet with some admitted reluctance on his part. "They are not racist. I would have told you," Rose assures him but from the opening moment when Rose's dad greets him with an awkward "My man!" Chris feels increasingly uncomfortable in the isolated house where a Stepford-like black maid, Georgina (Betty Gabriel), and even more unnerving black groundskeeper, Walter (Marcus Henderson), only serve to amplify Chris's paranoia. Catherine Keener, as Rose's deceptively friendly psychiatrist mother, turns that paranoia up another notch or two.
Get Out never feels like it has been made by a first-time filmmaker, so completely assured and disciplined is Peele's direction that it feels like we've fallen into the cinematic lair of a true genius. I can't begin to count the number of directors who've tried and failed to make a film that so perfectly balances social observation, cultural commentary and pure entertainment. The fact that Peele can do so at a time in this nation when hatred and division is being once again fueled and given prominent display only makes this film that much more effective and impactful.
In the film, Peele, who also wrote the script, puts both Chris and Rose on equal footing. Chris is a successful and highly respected photographer, a "catch" if you will, while Rose has those "girl next door" looks and uber successful parents whose mega-luxurious estate in the country has the aura of "I made it and I'm not going to hide it!"
Indeed, they don't hide it.
The story that unfolds would be a pity to disclose. The Get Out experience practically demands going into it fresh and unaware, though what you should expect is a film that's politically furious, relentlessly funny and even more unrelenting in speaking its truths. While it seems films like Get Out often target the political and social conservatives with their wrath, rest assured that Peele doesn't hesitate to enfold even the so-called American progressive, especially the kind of progressive who outwardly voices support for interracial relationships while whispering aside "but not my daughter."
Um, yeah, folks. Jordan Peele is looking at you. And me.
It also helps that Get Out is exceptionally well cast, with Daniel Kaluuya turning in what should be a career-defining performance as Chris. Kaluuya instantly gains our sympathy as Chris, the consummate boyfriend whose overt efforts to win over Rose's parents despite their verbal faux pas are sweet and consistently endearing. Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener avoid caricatures as Rose's parents and absolutely nail all the right notes, while Allison Williams does a nice job of doing the kind of slow reveal that draws you in, pushes you away, draws you in, pushes you away. Lakeith Stanfield, who was so outstanding in this year's underrated Crown Heights, is absolutely terrific as Andrew, while Betty Gabriel maximizes her time with light yet perfect comic relief. LilRel Howery and Marcus Henderson round out a top notch ensemble cast with additional appearances by familiar faces such as Stephen Root and Caleb Landry Jones, the latter who seems to have been in just about every quality film released this year.
If there's one thing that's truly remarkable about Get Out it's that Peele seems to have been given the freedom to make the film he truly wanted to make, a rarity for studio-released motion pictures even for experienced directors. It speaks highly of that ever glistening Blumhouse production banner, a banner becoming known as the go to production banner for low-to-moderately budgeted indie horror flicks that entertain, challenge and satisfy. Kudos to D.P. Toby Oliver for lensing that nicely frames the suspense and adds tension to the relationships, while the original score from newcomer Michael Abels weaves together tension-filled strings with gothic-tinged choral arrangements to create a symphonic chasm of unnerving, jarringly traumatic suspense.
Get Out is, somewhat unexpectedly, one of the best films of the year for 2017 and an absolutely stellar debut feature film from Jordan Peele who has, quite simply, announced his arrival on the filmmaking scene in a way that seems destined to be remembered come awards season.
Get Out is also one of the most frightening films of the year, not because it's graphic, it's not, but because the film constantly feels like a project that is both intimate for Peele and universal in its messaging. Released at exactly the right time in America, Get Out will entertain you and convict you and ask a whole lot of difficult questions without offering a whole lot of easy answers.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic