Many critics have compared Jordan Peele’s Get Out to Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and The Stepford Wives, but it reads more Hitchcockian based on the style in which the film builds tension around the insidious nature of whiteness.
Like Dial M For Murder, or Psycho, the antagonist tries to outsmart the protagonist and even the audience into thinking they might be well-intentioned, but the friendly facade soon turns menacing. As a social critique, Get Out is less about overt racism, and more about separatism, and the backstabbing nature of the modern white liberal.
The fact of the matter is Get Out will shock, frighten, enrage, and likely divide audiences. This is probably due to the hefty amount of creative freedoms Peele is allowed via Blumhouse studios which didn’t corrupt his vision of social vampirism and how it takes shape.
The first scene sets the stage for what’s to come. Andrew (Lakeith Stanfield) walks vigilantly down a dark suburban street. Per the usual course, Black and brown bodies walking down the streets of predominantly white neighborhoods are presumed to have sinister intentions–an assumption that can lead to death because of fear of the unknown.
This scene is a metaphor for the stop and frisk phenomenon. Peele flips the narrative here to show what it looks like on the other side of the coin when blacks are the ones in fear. The audience is made aware that this enemy is seeking to police the presence of Andrew in a nefarious way.
Once this scene is done, we meet Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Alison Williams). They are in love. This wouldn’t be an issue of contention if this weren’t an interracial couple. Chris with his mocha skin tone and Rose who is as white as alabaster stand out within society’s standards. But this post-racial American couple is sacrificing it all in the name of love and is ready to face the real world by taking a road trip to meet her family.
They’ve only been together five months— which is a short amount of time, so it makes sense he is nervous about the experience. “Do they know I’m black?” he asks. With racial tensions so high in America, this is a damned good question to ask as he wants to be prepared. When they arrive at her folks’ house, he is surprised that the Armitage family reception is jovial. Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener), a therapist and Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), who is a neurosurgeon are a quirky pair who love Barack Obama and claim to believe in diversity, and seem to lead normal lives.
Hearing this about Rose’s parents prompts Chris to let his guard down. In the end this proves to be a grave mistake.
Jordan Peele has a history as a sketch comedy artist. He is one-half of the comedy duo Key & Peele. He has plenty of experience in front of the camera but Get Out is his first outing behind the camera. Unlike first time directors, you don’t notice many first time mistakes here. There is a high degree of emotional maturity in his script and a good understanding of the racial tensions in the USA.
Peele utilizes camera angles and subtle cinematic nuances to serves a purpose within the story. Nothing you see is by accident. This aids in invoking a physical reaction by funneling the audience through a range of emotions to purposely make them uncomfortable. But racism is uncomfortable, and thanks to Peele’s genius, we see it can cause even more discomfort when modernized. The idea that not only is America far from being a past racism, but Get Out seizes the moment, and frames the story in a clear way for millennials to internalize.
I haven’t explained much of the story because I don’t want to spoil it. But understand the film speaks to the power and the horror of white privilege and misconceptions of liberalism and allyship. Get Out centers the fears and anxieties of black people and begs to ask the questions: can white allies be trusted? What is perplexing is Jordan Peele has a white mother and has a white wife–so did Get Out come from a place of personal experience? One would assume that his proximity to whiteness would make him more–apologetic, right?
The movie is a slow, tension-fueled burn that will leave you in such a paralyzed state it will glue you to your seat. And when you think things have reached fever pitch, you’ll be swacked with the element of horror at the gall of white supremacy.