By Zoë Boothby
2017 is a strange time. And, like all strange times, we turn to the movies to help us reflect and readjust. For the political climate following the results of last year’s Presidential Election, we may have found some essential viewing in Jordan Peele’s Get Out.
Whilst it would have been easy to make a film attacking the resurgence of racism found amongst Trump supporters, Peele instead decides to go after the privileged liberals and Democrats: Obama and Clinton supporters who pride themselves on their acceptance of diversity, and apparent indiscriminate attitude towards issues of race. In Peele’s movie, however, this so-called ‘colour-blindness’ is examined under intense scrutiny, exposed instead as ignorance of the reality of race relations in the U.S., and the results are sensational.
Get Out follows the ‘meet the parents’ template, but with an added racial dimension, as it presents a white woman who takes her black boyfriend to meet her parents in the leafy New York suburbs for the first time. They are outspokenly liberal and proud, with her father proudly proclaiming “I would have voted for Obama for a third time if I could’ve.” Everything is not what it seems, however, and the presence of the black ‘help’ arouses his suspicions. What unfolds makes for a surreal film experience, and a savage exploration of ‘post-racial’ America.
Daniel Kaluuya is exceptional in the lead role, managing to navigate a difficult subject with a performance that is both charismatic and emotionally moving. The casting of the film is genius beyond the great performances that are turned in, slyly making references to the white ignorance Get Out is keen to expose. Allison Williams, best known for her work on Girls, the show infamous for its unadulterated whiteness, is perfectly cast as the girlfriend that brushes off any suggestions of racial tension in America. Bradley Whitford, famous as Democrat White House staffer Josh Lyman in The West Wing, plays the father keen to impress with his overbearing racial tolerance. The presence of such characters hints at the white cultural and political institutions Peele desires to disparage.
The movie has proved to be a box office as well as critical success, and is currently well on its way to becoming one of the highest-grossing horror films of all time. Although the elements of horror have been strongly emphasized in the marketing of the movie, I would venture that Get Out is probably better categorised as a social thriller, elevated to the psychological with Catherine Keener’s trippy hypnosis sessions. The brief ‘scare’ moments, however, arise from genuine suspense, as opposed to the poorly-executed ‘quiet quiet bang’ methods so often utilised in contemporary horror.
Despite the variety of components at play, the consistent humour in the film must not be overlooked, whether it comes from LilRel Howrey’s character, or just the mere absurdity of some of the later sequences. Get Out is multi-layered, and certainly merits a second viewing to attempt to unpick the subtleties Peele has masterly weaved into the film.
It has also been one the best audience experiences I’ve had in a long time, and I would highly recommend seeking it out in a cinema to fully take advantage of a movie which provokes such a spectrum of visceral reactions. I saw Get Out on a Saturday night in a packed cinema in Washington D.C., a suitably political location, and I can’t remember the last time the emotions shared by the whole audience around me were so intense. We squirmed, jumped, laughed, clapped and everything in between. After the annual slew of ‘worthy’ Oscar hopefuls audiences are subjected to in the early months of the year, Get Out offers an effective antidote, as it manages to be thought-provoking as well as outrageously entertaining.
Photograph: Tim Pierce via Flickr