Two weeks ago the big movie story was the Academy Awards. Last week the attention went to the release of Logan, Hugh Jackman's final Wolverine movie. Meanwhile, Get Out, a story about the worst meet-the-parents weekend ever, earned $30 million over its first three days of release. The film cost around $4.5 million to make, a tiny sum by today's standards. After only two weeks Get Out's domestic total has reached $78 million, with much more to come.
I don't typically refer to box office receipts in my movie essays. I'm doing so now because I hope I can intrigue those of you that overlooked or dismissed the film enough that you'll go see it despite its genre.
What genre? I'll get to that later.
Get Out is written and directed by Jordan Peele of Key and Peele, the comedy duo whose eponymous sketch comedy TV series ran for five seasons on Comedy Central. The most well-known recurring bit from the series involved Peele playing President Obama and his partner, Keegan-Michael Key, playing Luther, the President's anger translator. While Obama maintained the dignity and restraint one expects from the leader of the free world, Luther the anger translator would rant and rave about the President's opponents. It was great fun listening to him display the rage and pettiness the President was too mature to express.
Those days seem so long ago. Who ever would have guessed that the new occupant of the Oval Office would make Luther look refined by comparison?
But I digress.
Key and Peele dealt with race relations on a regular basis, always finding an interesting way to approach the subject. With Get Out, Peele has found a new way to satirize the naive notion – popularized with the election of Obama – that we are living in a post-racial society. He puts it in a horror movie.
There, I've stated the genre. Get Out is a horror movie, my least favorite genre except for princess movies. I lost interest in horror films because too many of them used gore and cheap scares to win the approval of audiences that seemed content to put up with any old piece of crap as long as it made them jump in their seats.
Yes, I know I'm generalizing and that I've probably missed a lot of notable horror films. I'll just have to live with that.
Get Out introduces Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams), who are headed to her parents for the weekend. When Chris asks if she's told them he's black, Rose laughs off the very idea, assuring him that her folks are charming to a fault and that her father always says he would have voted for Obama for a third term if given the chance.
So it's off to the parents they go, in an elegant gated community. The parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) are just as polite as Rose described – Dad even voices his “third term for Obama” line.
All is well, but wait … there's something not right about the only two black people at the estate. Georgina (Betty Gabriel) the housekeeper looks like her smiling facial expression was frozen into place and handyman Walter (Marcus Henderson) barely seems tethered to our reality. They make Chris nervous, and he's not put at ease by his hosts' squirm-inducing attempts to show how racially progressive they are.
Chris explains his discomfort to Rose, who tells him to relax. He expresses his concern by phone to his best friend, a TSA officer named Rod (Lil Red Howery), who urges him to get the hell out of that place.
First time director Peele does a fine job anchoring the film in today's culture (an early encounter with a police officer is disquieting and all too credible) while gradually increasing the freaky feel. Chris, beautifully played by Daniel Kaluuya, marks a rarity in horror films – a lead character that doesn't do anything howlingly stupid, aside from not heeding his friend's advice to split.
Composer Michael Abels' score is creepily compelling, easing us from social satire into a nightmare that works as both a metaphor and a suitably thrilling and, yes, gory conclusion. You'll wince when you hear Rose's refined father refer to Chris as “my man.” Just wait until you find out what he means.
After everything is revealed in Get Out you'll want to see it again to watch the pieces fall into place. Nice job, Mr. Peele.