Jordan Peele made a name for himself as half of the comic duo Key & Peele (with Keegan-Michael Key), the post-Dave Chappelle team that daringly skewered our curious racial proclivities in the supposedly post-racial dynamic that dawned following the election of President Barack Obama. It is telling that one of their signature segments showcased Peele as the president and Key as Luther, his anger translator, the not-so subtle joke being that President Obama couldn’t be seen as an angry black man, therefore he needed a stand-in to express his outrage.
In Get Out, his first feature as a writer-director, Peele is behind the camera, but continues to push the social/cultural discussion about the representations and perceptions of African Americans in the mainstream. A delicious subtlety simmers in this hearty genre stew full of horror tropes, sly comedic moments, and a seemingly more fully realized interracial romantic tale. It is about Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an African American photographer heading off to the East Coast estate of his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) to meet her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) for the first time.
The scheduling gods got the last sly laugh by having this update of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner open during Oscar 2017 weekend. With everyone celebrating a veritable feast of nominations for people of color following two years of #OscarsSoWhite protesting, the arrival of Get Out must look like the wafer-thin mint from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.
Progressive social mores get a Twilight Zone-inspired tweaking once the party gets going, and Peele refuses to provide any easy jokes to ease the tension. Intriguingly though, the film revels in a degree of subversiveness and stark tonal juxtapositions that audiences will appreciate long after they’re finished seeing it. And discerning fans will salute Chris as the spiritually “woke” heir to Ben (Duane Jones), the black man who didn’t quite make it to the final frame of George Romero’s 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead. Grade: A