Sooz Kempner talks liberal politics and Jordan Peele’s new horror satire.
When I reviewed Ava DuVernay’s 13th, I said any black person should be able to walk up to any white person and just punch them in the face. Good news, I feel like that again after watching Jordan Peele’s new horror-satire, Get Out.
Here’s the gist: Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is a photographer and Chris is black. He is about to meet his white girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) family and he’s worried because she hasn’t told them he’s black. She insists they are as liberal as you can get and that he shouldn’t fret.
At the home of Rose’s parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) we meet all their super-liberal friends who make Chris (and us) feel increasingly uncomfortable. And you won’t quite be able to put your finger on why.
Why are the black house staff (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel) acting strangely? Why are the older couples at the party so very interested in Chris? And why does Rose only seem to date black guys?
I don’t want to give anything else away about Get Out because what at first seems like a tale of identity politics within the left-wing white middle class becomes something chilling, dark and incredibly witty. The twists and turns need to be seen unspoiled.
“We’re not presented with KKK members, white supremacists with confederate flags or Jeff Sessions-style Republican politicians in the film; instead we are confronted with the face of liberal America.”
The creeping sense of dread you will feel is partly to do with Peele’s superb script and gripping thriller plot but also due to the subtle way we are presented with the micro-aggressions of the liberal white characters upon Chris that he faces every single day.
Early in the film, before we’re even presented with Rose’s family, the couple encounter a local police officer who doesn’t throw Chris on the bonnet of the car or raise his baton against him or say anything that sounds dictionary-definition racist but it’s… uncomfortable. And too easy for somebody who has never experienced that sort of treatment to brush off. “I mean, all the cop did was ask for ID…” would be factual but clearly way off the mark.
To only focus on the issues raised in Get Out would be doing the film a disservice. It’s beautifully shot, pulling on horror tropes we’ve seen many times before but somehow seeming fresh in this setting. The score by Michael Abels has Bernard Herrmann hints and gradually brings in blues influences and the use of a Swahili choir. It’s all very effective, never spelling out how we should be feeling, merely complementing the action.
The ensemble is very strong, with not a weak performance in the film. Allison Williams in particular shines as Rose. This is impressive, as I only know her as Marnie in Girls and I forgot all about Marnie while watching Get Out. We also REALLY need to see more of Catherine Keener on our screens. She nails Missy, managing to be simultaneously warm, maternal and icy-cold.
Daniel Kaluuya, a British actor I mostly knew from an episode of Black Mirror and as an over-eager traffic warden in a Harry Enfield sketch, gives a stunning performance as Chris, our paranoia growing with his. What a breakthrough performance.
Uncomfortable is the word I keep coming back to when writing this review. Peele (of Key and Peele fame) is ostensibly a comedy writer and Get Out was originally described to me as a horror-comedy. I suppose Shaun of the Dead is a surface match in that it doesn’t shy away from genuine horror while maintaining its comedy bent but Get Out has a hundred times the bite of Shaun of the Dead (ironic for a zombie movie).
There are fewer laughs than you might expect as the film explores white privilege, the stereotypes of black characters in horror movies and the idea of being black in a white-dominated world. We’re not presented with KKK members, white supremacists with confederate flags or Jeff Sessions-style Republican politicians in the film; instead we are confronted with the face of liberal America. “My father would have voted Obama for a third term if he could” insists Rose.
This well-meaning embrace of Black Lives Matter, the insistence that “I don’t see colour” can lead to an ignorance and a notion that racism is gradually fading out of existence. This train of thought might be as dangerous as a torch-wielding, white-hooded mob and Get Out demonstrates this in a film that is funny and thrilling.
It’s early in 2017 and we’ve only just had the Oscars, but if a better film than Get Out is released in the next few months, this year of cinema is really spoiling us. See it.4911 Views
Funny Women Variety Award Winner 2012. ASDA Kate Bush.