The directing debut of Jordan Peele, one half of US comedy duo Key & Peele, should make a lot of people feel uncomfortable. Partly because it’s a satire on racism that casts a challenging look at middle-class liberals, and partly because it’s a highly effective horror movie. His is one of the most exciting new directing voices we’ve seen in a while.
One of the most exciting new directing voices we’ve seen in a while.
Get Out follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young black man meeting his white girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents for the first time. As much as Rose protests otherwise, Chris worries they’ll be uncomfortable around him. In a sense they are, in that they’re so keen to broadcast just how totally fine they are with Chris, by introducing race in a positive light into almost every conversation, that nobody feels at ease, particularly Chris. There are other reasons to feel on edge. The two other black people in the house, servants, seem to have nothing to say for themselves and move silently about the house late at night. Rose’s family friends seem graspingly keen to get to know Chris. Something is absolutely not OK.
The places Peele takes his plot are on the surface quite silly, or at least asking for a major suspension of disbelief, but he confidently lays every step necessary to get there; he doesn’t just pull it from nowhere. In context, it works. It’s the getting there that is the most fun. Peele’s combination of casual, natural family interaction and stark, surreal interludes creates a constant sense of unease. When you’ve no real idea just what is going on it’s very hard to settle. Nobody earns our trust but Chris. Suspicion is constant. Your nails may not last the whole movie.
The target of Peele’s satire is a brave one. Self-consciously liberal white people are probably quite a sizeable chunk of the movie’s audience, but he asks them – us – to do some self-examination, to poke beneath the surface. He suggests even when you swear you treat everyone the same, there is difference, because the experience of a black person is different from that of a white person. Pretending otherwise is phoney. It’s not up to white people to decide the state of racial equality. That could be a stern message, but Peele doesn’t lecture. His film is very, very funny in parts and always entertaining. Its primary function is as a horror movie with shades of comedy, and it succeeds superbly. A lot of its deeper messages, which you could pick apart ad nauseum, only really bubble to the surface in thinking about it after. Peele’s a rare director who can combine big ideas with big fun.