An invitation should never lead to “Get out!” Or should it?
Recently, I was thrilled when my son invited me to the movies, one of his favorite pastimes, to see Jordan Peele’s premiere feature writing-directing debut. Typically, when my son extends the invitation, I offer one thousand reasons why I can’t go, starting with “I’m writing, reading, editing and filming” and ending with, “Sorry. I’m searching the Firestick for said-movie right now.” This time was different, though. I wanted to see a “good” horror movie, a thing I rarely watch, that is, if I wasn’t laughing and ridiculing it for being less than horrific.
So why was this time different?
I’m writing my first horror short story and the first thing I figure I’d do is read a couple of classic horror stories so I make it to the library to check out Stephen King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories and now my son becomes clairvoyant, reading my mind and springing for a film that is trending with intriguing reviews. Good going, Claudia!
I accept the invitation and promise myself not to leave before the credits rise.
Okay, here we go. Firstly, the film’s advertising photo snatches my attention. A young black man is suspended in darkness, terror and helplessness in his wide eyes, his body hanging manically, as if he is running backward, falling into a sort of no-man’s land. Strangely, the pink of his parted lips connotes a slash of blood on his distressed face. Not good, but great for the movie’s categories. Horror and Mystery.
Peele’s feature film is the story of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) accepting an invitation home to meet the parents of his sweetly insistent white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). Not too unusual, right? Not so. I’m thinking, why is this less-than-rosy chick pressing her relatively new boyfriend to go home with her to meet the parents after “Hello, my name is Rose.” I mean, I may be dated, but don’t lovers wait longer than four or five months to take that Parent Step? After all, they might not make the five-month marker? Nonetheless, this Rose of a missy is not only bending boyfriend’s arm to meet the parents, but she’s also downright ditsy about not having to forewarn her folks that the new bae is black. Third red flag!
No matter what, darling reader, please know that I LOVED the movie. And I will try not to spoil it for you…at least in too many places. Alright! Now you know what my grandma knew, I can’t hold water. 🙂 So I’ll carry on.
The first flag flashes when the movie opens on a manicured neighborhood at night, and a sole black man is chatting on a cell phone, presumably, with his lady, telling her he’ll be home soon. Mind you, the street’s shadows loom. Ripples skip my spine. Uh huh, it’s a suburban hood, and yes, thank you, my mind goes to Trayvon Martin. Meekly, I wonder why ole Dude has no car or why his friends left him to walk. What really could have happened to leave him walking at that time of night? Suddenly, thoughts of why drivers need AAA as much, if not more, than auto insurance skate my mind. And just as I’m about to jump out of my plush-red theater seat, on the screen, a car rolls by, slows, and (damn) goes into a U-turn. Goodness. I curse. This is going to be one frightening film, being so close, as it is, to contemporary headlines.
Second red flag? you ask.
Rose keeps insisting that her parents are way cool and Chris being black will not freak them out in the least. Really? In what Universe? Even if she’s dated black guys since infancy, those lenient parents must yet be praying that, one day, Rose will come home, dragging her beau behind her, and he will be white. But, in this situation, the roots grow deeper than Rose returning home with a white boy. No no no. He’s got to be black, same as I’ve gotta be me, as Frank croons in one of my favorite Sinatra songs.
All of my coils are standing on end…for the preciously hopeful and naively sweet Chris. Now, it doesn’t help matters when Rose hits a deer on the roadway en route to the family homestead. Chris, being the man, gets out of the car and walks down the two-lane road and peeks at the fallen deer, wide-eyed with a helpless terror, unable to protect itself from whatever comes upon it. Okie dokie. Something in me…call it a writer…projects into the film and conjures this naive Chris may just find himself fallen and helpless, same as this struck deer. Oh no, I whisper. Moans waft up from the open-mouthed deer. My heart hurts.
It’s short lived.
Then I wonder why the darn deer is in the bushes on the side of the highway from which he bolts. The left. Wouldn’t he be groaning on the right side of the highway? But then again, maybe the impact sent the deer careening back across the road? I doubt it. I’m logistically challenged sometimes, but that was a doo-sie! So I’ll carry on!
Can a driver be charged for not reporting a hit deer, off the road, in the bushes? I mean, why, really, would a feisty young white woman with money behind a name like Rose Armitage feel the whim to call the police to report an accident, when the damage to her vehicle is minimal. What? A broken side-view mirror. I scratch my head and conjure this supposition: The police scene is for the audience to buy stock in the belief that Rose will defend “her man” against “the man.” If the police wants to see Chris’s ID, he can forget it: Rose informs him that she knows her rights, and Chris’s, too, because Chris wasn’t driving so he doesn’t need to show his ID.
Of course, later, we learn that Chris’s ID will be someone else’s very soon. Which is hilarious. The man, a blind art dealer, who bids for Chris’s body and mind, is aware of Chris’s renown photography, thus the reason for the clips of the new Canon 70D in some background shots. Not only that, interestingly enough, the officer doesn’t persist with a young black man’s ID, even though a black man about his age has recently gone missing in the surrounding area. That reminds me about how important missing black men are.
Chris and Rose eventually arrive at her parents’ home, which is a mansion, actually, with water on one side and is, according to the father, Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), miles away from the nearest neighbor across that water. And you know all sorts of dealings are happening on that property with an odd couple moving about, a black man and woman, folks Dean says he “kept on” after his parents died; kept on as if they were mentally challenged children, who needed him to provide their room and board or else they’d be as functional as abandoned puppies. Think sharecropping after slavery.
What follows is a sort of modern-day slavery. A twist on Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Although it pains me not to continue spoiling the movie, I shall reveal no more. Get Out is spellbinding, provocative, arresting. There is something for everybody in the movie. Comic relief abounds in LilRel Howery (Rod Williams), who can possibly make the most dispassionate person howl. That Betty Gabriel (Georgina) may have had the fewest lines, but she is a jaw-dropping presence from her first scene to her death scene, the film’s ending scene.The writing is fantastic, and I’m proud of Jordan Peele’s first film. Kudos! I wish him many more auspicious box-office successes.
Betty Gabriel as Georgina, the black woman whose body Grandmother Armitage inhabits.
I find it intriguing that Jordan Peele is biracial, the son of a white mother and a black father. Tickled, I wonder how his ‘Meet the Parents’ gala went when he met Chelsea Peretti’s parents, though I’m certain the meeting was wonderful…and definitely sans a horrific hue.
Reviewed by Claudia Moss