Movie Review: Get Out
Rating 2 and 1/2 Stars
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut was extremely popular and lauded as a critical success. I’ve been a fan of Peele’s work dating back to his years toiling on the Key and Peele show. I grimaced my way through Key and Peele’s joint effort Keanu, and watched as Peele has transferred into the directorial space while Keegan-Michael Key continues doing supporting roles, voice acting, and acting on broadway.
I kept Get Out in my mind since its release knowing I’d eventually come around to getting past my horror film trepidations. Get Out isn’t a scary movie about scary monsters perusing around in cellars or demon children being possessed by mystical forces. Get Out is a psychological horror that reminds of the same feeling I got watching The Shining. You never get to feel comfortable. There’s a sinister force at work throughout the film and you’re waiting for it to bust through the bathroom door Nicholson style. I’m not sure there’s an iconic scene or moment in Get Out that would compare to that of The Shining’s seminal moment. But as far as overall tone and approach to tension I think there are some apt comparisons between the two films.
Get Out is a movie that details a horrifying case of cultural appropriation. Peele takes the concept and molds it into a reality in Get Out. The message is delivered loud and clear as Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is transported to the famed Sunken Place.
As a past listener of the Iamrapaport podcast, Michael Rapaport and former co-host Gerald Moody would have a running gag about “white girl syndrome”. They would detail stories in the news or in the past about black men that have seemingly lost their minds after being entranced by their white girlfriend. Relevant cases they would reference are OJ Simpson, Lamar Odom, and Kanye West. Maybe Peele could’ve inserted the Kardashian family into Get Out instead of the Armitage’s.
The Sunken Place is more than just a case of white girl syndrome though, it’s a twisted fantasy world where black people are lobotomized of their culture, their physical presence, and whatever else old white people want to use for their longevity and gain.
The most pivotal and racially charged scene of the film is when a family party the Armitage’s are throwing details a Bingo game that is actually an auction for Chris’s transfusion.
As compelling as some of Peele’s messaging throughout the movie can be, I didn’t find the film overall to be as tension gripping or impactful as was driven by expectation. You may decry me for falling victim to critical hype and high expectations, and that’s always a possibility with any highly regarded movie, but I’m not so sure that’s the case with Get Out.
Get Out soars with its imagery and metaphorical commentary but lulls on its characters and their conversations and interactions. Kaluuya’s character is the most puzzling of them all. Peele seems deadset on not making Kaluuya a traditional heroic and empathetic figure. Peele offers us only the slightest bit of backstory on Chris’s background by showing he’s a talented photographer.
Chris’s girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), has no discernible background. She shows slightly more personality than Chris but I wonder how the two got together in the first place. Peele doesn’t make Chris or Rose seem like people, rather they are odd characters about to enter into an even more strange and cringy family setting.
The Armitage family don’t really talk or even act like people, but rather like machines learning how to be people. Each member of the family has their one signature personality trait: the unorthodox mad scientist father, the disconnected paranormal mother, and the psychotically enraged brother. They don’t act like a family but rather individuals interacting in a family dynamic with Rose being the only one reaching for self-awareness to string Chris along for the weekend. Even still Chris’ disposition throughout most of the film is perplexing to me. Why is he so perturbed by the oddities of the Armitage family but allows it all to pass as pompous circumstance? If the Armitage family is a little off-putting, it’s understandable. The Armitage family plays like a home for serial killers from the jump.
Chris’s friend, Rod (Lil Rel Howery) is the only character that has his wits about him, and he’s ironically a TSA agent, a nice touch by Peele. Rod’s role in the film can be seen as comic relief but that’s because he’s a genuinely funny caricature of a real-life best friend. I enjoyed all the entirety of Rod’s screen time and was left yearning for more.
I would be amiss to not to remark on the performance of the Armitage’s family housekeeper Georgina played by Betty Gabriel. Gabriel is the scariest character in the film without a doubt. Gabriel was in another role that was deserving of more screen time.
Get Out does deliver with some signature scenes and moments. A cop car appearing during the final confrontation is a magnificent swerve. The first major reveal involves some damning photos. Then there’s the most disconcerting scene with the Armitage’s family mother, Missy, who practices hypnotism with a spoon grinding around a teacup. The sound design is painful in a good way.
A lot of fans and critics of Get Out have remarked on Peele’s talent for writing and directing, but even before its release, I had a feeling Peele would deliver a fresh and exciting film. Many of Peele’s best sketches in the Key and Peele show were riffs on society and racism. Key and Peele were not only great at transforming into different characters but bending and edifying our preconceived notions by playing on our false confidences.
Get Out is a movie many have remarked that you have to watch several times in order to fully grasp the nuance and details. That’s fine. If that’s what you want out of a movie, so be it. It’s doubtful I’d watch Get Out again on the basis there are very few horror films I generally go back and watch. Get Out may be geared for those dying to uncover what’s under the surface.
Get Out is as harrowing as it is conceptually unique, but I felt there was more to be desired in its characters and their interactions.