There isn’t much to write about “Get Out,” the new horror-thriller from writer-director Jordan Peele. Not that “Get Out” isn’t brilliant, it is and I am happy to write that. No, I just don’t want to spoil the myriad pleasures of “Get Out” by telling you too much about it. The film’s trailer gives away too much already, a full-scale review would likely only take away from what should be a surprising, shocking, funny and edgy ride that Jordan Peele has concocted.
“Get Out” stars newcomer Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, a TSA employee and budding photographer who is nervous about the upcoming weekend. Chris is headed to Connecticut to meet his girlfriend’s parents for the first time. This would-be nerve wracking for anyone but Chris has the extra edge of being a young black man who is dating a young white woman, Rose (“Girls” star Allison Williams), who hasn’t told her parents who is coming to dinner.
While Rose assures Chris that her parents won’t care about his ethnicity, Chris’s best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery, stealing the whole movie) instructs his friend not to go. Putting aside Rod’s seemingly comical warning, Chris loves Rose and figures one weekend in Connecticut won’t kill him. Upon arriving the Armitage estate, Chris meets the parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), each extra awkward in their overly ingratiating, white liberal manner; Dean assures Chris he would have voted for Obama a third time.
Things quickly get weird however when Chris is introduced to the help, Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson). While Chris assumes that fellow black people will make him feel more comfortable, Georgina and Walter are anything but welcoming. In fact, something is quite menacing in their manner. They act and speak like aliens inhabiting the bodies of black people with nothing familiar about them.
I will stop with the plot description there as to avoid any potential spoilers. I can say however that the portrayals of Georgina and Walter are some of the most biting and universal satire we’ve seen in some time. Walter and Georgina implicate all of us from Chris to each member of the audience in the way we expect people to be one way. We expect Georgina and Walter to have familiar, stereotypical traits. We may not know what those traits are specifically but each of us has a model for Georgina and Walter to live into and it is disturbing when they don’t live into it, for us and for Chris.
White liberal guilt is in for quite a workout in “Get Out” as the film takes a few sharps stabs at the way in which those who don’t consider themselves racist pat ourselves on the backs for the ways we aren’t racist. Newsflash, you are not supposed to be a racist. You don’t get a cookie simply for being better than those who would commit hate crimes. “Get Out” is a perfect jab right to the consciousness of the complacent masses who believe simply having elected a black President has made this a post-racial society.
Don’t be mistaken however, the politics are much subtler and implied in “Get Out” than in the outward example I am giving you here. “Get Out” is first and foremost a horror thriller that uses race as a catalyst. Jordan Peele has said in interviews that he simply wanted to make a movie he’d never seen before and he’s certainly created something original. “Get Out” has horror beats and even a touch of science fiction, often the best genres for subtle satire, but it’s also brilliantly funny, channeling the incredibly sharp wit of its creator.
Again, I don’t want to give anything away about “Get Out.” With that said, I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Lil Rel Howery steals this whole movie. Howery, a stand-up comedian by trade, is put in place as comic relief but just wait, Peele fills out this character in ways that the Coen Brothers might appreciate. Watching Howery I was reminded, in a rather obscure way, of John Goodman’s Walter in “The Big Lebowski.” You will need to see the movie to understand why I say that and probably need to be a huge Coen Brothers fan as well, nevertheless, Howery deserves the praise of the comparison.
“Get Out” ranks next to “Split” as one of the best movies I have seen in the last 12 months. That each has arrived so early in 2017 is a wonder, we usually aren’t this well spoiled early in the year. Usually, the first two months of any year Hollywood clears the shelves of the dreck they are contractually obligated to release. Does this mean 2017 will be better than any other year? No, but at the very least we have two early masterworks to enjoy for the rest of the year.