Saturday, October 20, 2018

Stubs - Get Out

Get Out (2017) Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Stephen Root, Lakeith Stanfield, Catherine Keener Directed by Jordan Peele Screenplay by Jordan Peele. Produced by Sean McKittrick, Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., Jordan Peele Run Time: 103 minutes Color USA Horror, Comedy

Horror may not be the genre that you would expect Jordan Peele to make his mark in as a film director. Previously best known for his work as part of the comedy duo of Key & Peele, which had a five-season run on Comedy Central, and once again starring with Keegan-Michael Key in Keanu (2016), Get Out seems to come out of left field. Still, it was a tremendous hit, making $255.5 million on a budget of $4.5 million, and was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Picture and for Peele as Best Director.

The film opens with an unidentified black man walking through a suburban neighborhood. When he notices a car is following him, he tries to be inconspicuous but the driver manages to sneak up behind him and subdue him.

Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his white
girlfriend Rose Armitage on the way to meet her parents.

Despite the intro, the main story revolves around the mixed-race relationship between black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). After having dated for five months, it is finally time for Chris to meet her parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener). Despite the warning of his best friend and TSA
Agent Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery), Chris willingly goes.

Lil Rel Howery plays Chris' friend Agent Rod Williams of the TSA.

On the drive up, there is an accident with a deer that crosses in front of Rose’s car as she’s driving.  Even though she was driving, the highway patrol officer asks to see Chris’ ID. Rose, however, will have none of that and almost gets into an argument with the officer. It looks like Rose will not let her boyfriend be racially profiled.

Despite their liberal views, Rose's parents Missy (Catherine Keener) and
Dean (Bradley Whitford) have black servants, like Georgina (Betty Gabriel).

While Rose’s parents tell Chris how open-minded her parents are, they still have two black servants, a maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson). Dean explains to Chris that they were hired to take care of his dying parents and when they died they didn’t want to lose them. Dean also shows Chris a photograph of his father, Roman, who lost in the Olympic Trials to Jesse Owens. Over lunch, Dean notices that Chris is acting like a smoker and offers Missy’s hypnotherapy as a way of breaking his habit. Chris begs off.

At dinner, they are joined by Rose’s brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), who seems not only aggressive towards Chris but a little overtly racist. Chris tries not to let Jeremy bother him too much.

Groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) runs at night.

That night, Chris is unable to sleep so he goes outside for a smoke. While he’s out, he looks inside the house and sees Georgina checking herself out in a mirror. And he is almost run over by Walter, who goes running by him. Back inside the house, Chris discovers that Missy is up and waiting for him. She invites him in to sit with her and forces him into a hypnotherapy session. In a trance, he relives the death of his mother, who died on her way home after work, the victim of a hit-and-run. Under her hypnosis, Chris falls into what Missy calls the “sunken place” in which he is powerless to do anything.

Missy used hypnosis to get Chris to quit smoking and to put him under her spell.

When he wakes up the next morning, he discovers that Georgina has unplugged his phone, draining its battery. She tells him that it was an accident.

Their weekend visit corresponds with an annual get-together that Dean claims started with his father and which they carry on out of tradition. The guests are almost exclusively rich white people who arrive in a parade of limousines. They express to Chris an almost odd appreciation of black men and athletes like Tiger Woods.

The guests at the party seem really impressed by Blacks in general and Chris in particular.

While everyone seems to admire Chris’ physique, Jim Hudson (Stephen Root), a blind art dealer, tells him how much he admires his photography. Chris is understandably uneasy and is happy to see another black man there, Logan King (Lakeith Stanfield), who is married to a much older white woman. Logan seems more white than black and misinterprets a fist bump from Chris. When Chris tries to take an inconspicuous photo of Logan, the flash on his phone sends Logan into a rage. He rushes Chris, telling him to “Get out” before he is subdued and given a treatment by Missy. Away from the house, Chris convinces Rose that they should leave. Meanwhile, Dean leads a silent auction for Chris, which Jim appears to win.

The flash of the camera sets Logan King (Lakeith Stanfield) off.

Away from the house, Chris manages to convince Rose that he wants to leave.

Chris sends Rod the photo he took of Logan and Rod recognizes him as Andre Hayworth, a former friend, who has been missing for months. Suspecting there is something evil going on, Rod goes to the police with a wild conspiracy about Blacks being kidnapped and used as sex slaves. The police, though, laugh at his theory.

Back at the house, the party having ended, Chris is packing when he sees a closet door open and decides to look inside. There, in a bright red box, he discovers a cache of photos of Rose with a series of black men, one of whom resembles Walter, and even one black woman, who resembles Georgina. Up until then, he had thought he was Rose’s first black lover.

Chris tries to leave but the family blocks his way. Jeremy gets physical with him but it takes Missy’s hypnosis to subdue him and put him in the “sunken place” again. Unable to move, he is carried away by the family. He wakes up in a converted family room, strapped down in a chair. He is forced to watch a video presentation, starring the Armitage family but narrated by the patriarch, Roman (Richard Herd). He describes in simple yet ominous terms about a process of transplanting the brains of white people into black bodies. The goal is that white person’s consciousness would enjoy the body with the host’s remaining in the “sunken place” and powerless.

Chris gets sent back to the "sunken place" by Missy.

In a second video, Hudson tells Chris that he’s looking forward to gaining not only Chris’s sight, but also his artistic talents.

Meanwhile, Rose is eating dry cereal in her room when Rod calls looking for Chris. While he’s trying to find out what they’ve done to him, Rose makes a pass at him. Rod wisely hangs up.

Rose, on the phone with Rod, makes an overt pass at him.

Chris, who has been scratching at the fabric of the chair, uses some of the exposed stuffing as earplugs, so he is immune to the hypnotic sound cues that Missy has trained him to react to. So, while Dean preps Jim for the surgery, Jeremy goes to collect Chris. However, Chris jumps him and bashes his head in. He then impales Dean on the antlers of a trophy deer. In the commotion, Dean knocks over some lamps which sets the house on fire.

Upstairs, Chris prevents Missy from putting him under and then stabs her to death. Jeremy, who refuses to die, attacks, but Chris manages to kill him. Rose comes after him with a rifle, but Chris manages to get away. However, as he is driving away, he runs over Georgina. Still thinking she’s a victim in all of this and remembering how his own mother died after a hit-and-run, he goes back to get her. But Georgina is not really injured and is possessed by Marianne, Rose’s grandmother, who attacks him while he’s driving, forcing him to crash.

Georgina lashes out and causes Chris to crash the car.

Trying to escape on foot, Rose, with Walter in tow, catches up to him, with Walter tackling Chris. Chris manages to pull out his phone and snap a photo. The flash for it affects Walter the same way it had Logan. Walter takes Rose’s rifle from her but instead of killing Chris, shoots Rose in the stomach before turning the weapon on himself.

But Rose isn’t quite dead. Chris, in his anger, starts to strangle her. He is stopped when a police car pulls up nearby. Rose thinks she’s saved, too, until the police car turns out to belong to the TSA and driven by Rod. He has used his skills as a TSA agent to track down his friend. They leave Rose to die. After chiding him for not taking his advice, Rod drives Chris off to safety.

It will probably not come as any great surprise that race is a major part of the story, however, the inter-racial dating aspect is old hat by now. Once inter-racial couples are used to sell products on TV, the shock value is nil. The twist is a rather warped admiration for Blacks that somehow turns into Whites using their bodies for their own selfish use as if the White mind in a Black body is a more perfect person. And to think it all began when Roman lost out to Jesse Owens back in 1936.

I generally liked Get Out quite a lot, even though it is not a perfect film. There are a couple of holes that need to be overlooked. One of the most obvious is the big chunk of exposition that sort of falls into Chris’ lap like there just happened to be an open closet door in which is a bright red box that contains snapshots of all the black men and women Rose has brought to be transformed. Is that seriously something you would leave lying around? And there are so many lovers that you start to wonder how old Rose would have to be to have had so many, thinking it would take a few months of dating before meeting her parents.

Brain surgery is one of the most tedious of all surgeries, requiring the most antiseptic of all places. However, Dean seems to be doing most of the work in an open room lit by candles, not what I would consider a sanitary place to have someone’s head opened up.

And even though Rod is a member of the “TS-motherfuckin'-A” it seems almost coincidental that he would have been able to locate Chris when he does. Of course, no one wants to look a savior in the mouth, but his appearance at that moment is a bit of a Deus ex Machina.

Most of the power of the movie comes from the dialogue, which subtly plants clues all along the way. In retrospect, the dialogue takes on a different meaning. The script is as responsible as anything for the success of the film.

Allison Williams, the daughter of news anchor Brian Williams and a former cast member of the HBO series “Girls”, plays the very pleasant looking, though very evil, Rose. While she appears to be not only loving towards Chris, she also looks protective of him as well, in the scene with the Highway Patrolman. One of the great things about the film is that you can look back on scenes like this and see that she wasn’t being protective but rather trying to hide the evidence that Chris was ever there.

Chris and Rose in a happier moment together.

Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris seems all too accepting of things as they happen and a little na├»ve. We never really seem him react until he’s trapped. And even after he had seen the photos of Rose with other Black men he is still looking to her to help him out until it becomes painfully obvious that she’s not going to. All that makes his outburst at the end all the more powerful. The movie comes close but it doesn’t fall into the trap of having Chris be saved. On his own, he saves himself, making him more heroic.

The other actors, especially Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener, are both good in their roles. The fact that they start off so pro-Chris makes their ultimate betrayal all the more powerful. Whitford, who many will remember for his role in The West Wing, has been cast before as evil, playing a man who claims to be Red John in The Mentalist series. But then it was more of a claim to be evil, here we actually see him being evil.

Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are good in their roles.

But the real mastermind is Missy, who apparently has no qualms about using her hypnotic powers for evil. What she does to Chris she has apparently done many times before. This also seems to be a bit of a departure for Keener. Better known for her roles in Being John Malkovich (1999), Capote (2005) and The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), this also seems to be her playing against type and doing a good job with the role.

Lil Rel Howery sort of steals the movie.

Kaluuya and Williams may be the stars of the film but Lil Rel Howery sort of steals the show. While the comedian had appeared before on film and TV, his appearance in Get Out made him a much bigger star and no doubt led to his own comedy series, Rel, which debuted this fall. Every time he’s on the screen, he outshines pretty much anyone else. And his comedic relief is just what is needed after a rather harrowing sequence.

While horror may not be for everyone, this is really a very good film, despite the genre. Jordan Peele definitely has a promising career in films waiting for him. You look forward to seeing what he does next.

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