The classic ‘meet the parents’ weekend is turned on its head in “Get Out,” the directorial debut from comedian Jordan Peele. Peele has created a wannabe thriller about unsettling race relations in the U.S., but overall it’s a “Stepford Wives” style disappointment that lacks any suspense and has very little humor. I predict many critics will proclaim this movie as being a true original, but it’s not. An important social issue doesn’t make it a good movie, and I think some will be afraid to criticize the film and its many flaws because of it.
When white girl Rose (Allison Williams) invites her black boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) to go home and meet her mom (Catherine Keener) and dad (Bradley Whitford), something is definitely rotten. Her parents are the perfect picture of the ideal in-laws: accepting, intelligent and kind. Chris gets more than a little spooked when he spots strange and bizarre behavior from several of the household servants, which leads to more disturbing discoveries, a few jump scares, and a forced hypnosis from mom. Of course this turns out to be some kooky white people cult conspiracy that involves kidnapping African-American men (to avoid giving spoilers that’s all I’m going to say).
LilRel Howery plays the “stereotypical black friend” and as is the norm in most mainstream films, his character is the only one who has any funny one-liners. He’s the comic relief that keeps the engine running through this mess (although there’s an unfunny running TSA joke that outstays its welcome after the second crack). Stephen Root as a blind art dealer was enough to elicit a few polite, mild chuckles, but I found little else in the movie funny. It’s not that I expected a straight-up comedy film, but a bit more humor would’ve made the film work better.
It’s clear this race-based film was meant as a criticism of the liberal elite, those folks who think they are above any type of racism, but the film fails miserably across the board. In fact, I’m not sure if this movie aspires to be a parody, a satirical comedy, or conventional horror because it succeeds at none of the above. While trying to find its footing, the film comes across as more divisive and biased rather than clever, and it’s not the best message to be sending out into our post-Obama world and current heated political environment. (And please don’t tell me that I don’t “get” this movie because I’m white: for a movie with substantial and ambitious themes like this, there’s an even greater burden on the writer / director to make it appealing and relatable to everyone).
The film has an unappealing cast of actors, the overall story is lifeless, and it doesn’t help matters that it’s painfully slow to set up. Slow isn’t the correct word — it’s more of a draggy, tedious, exercise that tried my patience throughout the first 3/4 of the movie. I contemplated taking a nap through the majority of the screening because it was such a yawner, but thankfully things picked up a bit (albeit far too late) in the third act.
There’s no doubt “Get Out” was heavily influenced by horror genre conventions, and most of the bloody violence is on point. Peele has a good eye as a director and probably has a bright future behind the lens, but it’s the writing that he just can’t seem to pull together. This movie could’ve been a blazingly original commentary on race relations but instead, there’s no cohesiveness to his intended message. It’s a good idea, but it’s poorly executed.
This film was screened and reviewed at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.