Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Film Review: Get Out (2017)
The plot is a recycling of The Stepford Wives from 1975, but please stifle the cries of plagiarism. The horror genre is full of poachers, and Ira Levin, who wrote the novel of The Stepford Wives, would later borrow the plot of Les Diaboliques (1955) for his play Deathtrap (1982). The protagonist is Chris, a young black photographer who travels with his white girlfriend to visit her parents, the Armitages, who live deep in the countryside. The parents are upper middle class, and the initial scenes in which they greet Chris and flaunt their liberal credentials ("I would've voted for Obama a third time!") are deliciously acute and cringeworthy. Daniel Kaluuya as Chris does a superb job of using subtle, non-verbal reactions to show us how risible, suspicious and clumsy white displays of "open-mindedness" sound to African American ears. In short order Chris realizes that the Armitages and their circle of friends have an intense and surgical interest in black people. The horror plot line that follows is done with understated style and great efficiency.
Get Out is funny, clever and tense, but what makes it special is its unique take on racism. It would have been easy to make the white characters KKK monsters of racism, but Peele does something much smarter. His black characters are exploited because the whites find aspects of blackness appealing or useful. The liberal racist, Peele seems to be saying, respects, even loves, blacks but only in certain strictly defined roles. The full-blown racist wants nothing to do with blacks, while the liberal racist finds aspects of blackness pleasantly exploitable (I did a fuller piece on this issue here). And racial issues aside, this is one of the most entertaining films I've seen this year.