The most surprising thing about the success of Get Out is not its masterful blend of biting satire and legitimate creepiness — it’s that writer-director Jordan Peele was able to turn out such an insightful piece of social commentary under the auspices of schlock studio Blumhouse. Get Out wouldn’t have looked entirely out of place had it been found on A24’s prestige arthouse slate, but there’s something far more interesting about a film that is one of the best statements on race relations made in recent memory flying under the radar as a genre cheapie. Not since the heyday of The Twilight Zone have the trappings of genre storytelling been used so effectively to tackle issues of profound societal significance. The fact that Get Out also manages to be one of the scarier pictures released so far this year while maintaining a dry sense of gallows humor is just icing on the proverbial cake.
What’s truly remarkable about Peele’s achievement here is that he balances his tonality with such graceful perfection, consistently and effectively building tension from a place of character while stubbornly refusing to fall back on the comedic elements too frequently, only allowing the audience to catch their breath when absolutely necessary. The premise is straightforward enough — a young black man is meeting his white girlfriend’s parents for the first time, and she’s neglected to inform them of his race. It’s where things go from there that’s noteworthy, as though Peele took the racial implications of the final scenes of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and built a story around them. In lesser hands this approach could have come across as heavy-handed sermonizing, but Peele has enough respect for his audience’s intelligence to convey his point with a level of subtlety that renders it all the more poignant.
It helps matters immensely that Peele has recruited a dynamite cast without breaking the bank — and more importantly, he knows exactly how to use them. Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario) and Allison Williams (Girls) ably carry the film as the central couple, while Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford are pitch-perfect as Williams’ self-consciously progressive upper-crust parents. By the time we discover the ugly secret behind their liberal suburban enclave’s racial dynamics — and Keener’s hypnotic tea stirring — the characters have been so well developed that a truly bizarre sci-fi concept that could have been cooked up by Josef Mengele seems utterly believable. Even the tertiary characters are given enough focus to contribute narrative texture without distracting from the central through line, with the few scenes devoted to Steven Root’s blind artist or Lakeith Stanfield’s improbably domesticated boy toy hitting essential story beats without becoming obtrusive. The weakest link in the cast is Lil Rel Howery as the expositional font-comic relief, but his appearances are infrequent enough that even his overly broad comedic flourishes can’t detract from the proficient performances surrounding his own.
Peele’s script is methodically paced through the first two acts before descending into anarchic chaos in the third, but even when bodies start hitting the floor in more genre-typical modes of conflict resolution, no one will mistake Get Out for your garden-variety thriller. The political timeliness of Peele’s film makes its subversive statement on racist undercurrents in an allegedly “post-racial” society is not only prescient, but unfortunately necessary. There’s no shortage of excellent films out there dealing with race in a thoughtful and compelling manner, but few are as entertaining and engaging as Get Out. If Peele’s objective was to trick people into confronting the weighty subject of concealed racial bias by hiding his intentions in the guise of standard horror escapism, his plan worked flawlessly. Audiences of all ethnicities will get a lot out of Get Out. Rated R for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references.
Now Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande, Epic of Hendersonville.