Get Out (2017)

Get Out is actor and comedian Jordan Peele’s original horror-satire take on white liberal racism in the US.

Under the skin

by Alexa Dalby

Get Out

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

On a street at night in a white suburban neighbourhood, a kerb-crawling car inexplicably blaring out the 1940s-vintage Flanagan and Allen song ‘Run Rabbit Run’ suddenly abducts a lone, walking black man (LaKeith Stanfield). It’s a reversal of a trope.

That sense of menace before the credits have finished rolling sets the tone for successful black photographer Chris (British actor Daniel Kaluuya, last seen in Sicario) to be taken by his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to stay with her parents in the country for the weekend for the first time. “Do they know I’m black?” he asks. No, they don’t, but Rose assures him they’re so liberal and unprejudiced that her father would have voted for Obama for a third term if he could. When they have a run-in with the police en route, she’s protective of the implicit racism towards him. What could possibly go wrong?

Allison’s father is a neurosurgeon (Bradley Whitford) and her mother (Catherine Keener) is a psychotherapist who specialises in using hypnotherapy to cure smoking addiction. At the garden party they hold in the extensive grounds of their mansion, all the rich, middle-aged white people Chris is introduced to bend over backwards to awkwardly try to demonstrate their non-racist credentials to him. The more they overcompensate, the more uneasy he becomes. For a non-racist family, the only black people they seem to know are their two black servants, who to Chris seem strangely distant – even brainwashed like Stepford Wives – and the one non-white guest at the party doesn’t show any of the expected signs of recognition of one black ‘brother’ to another.

The lack of inclusion felt by the only black person in an exclusively white gathering builds into dangerous threat when Allison’s brother (Caleb Landry Jones) arrives. Chris starts to notice strange things happening that no one will acknowledge and his only recourse is to phone his friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery), who is looking after his flat back in the city and feeding his dog, and who seems to be just an urban stereotypical, street-talking security guard.

Rod may joke about Chris being wanted as a sex slave, but actual slavery is not so far in the past in the US, and maybe today has a more sophisticated interpretation. Hypnotised against his will, through ostensibly for his own good, Chris becomes even more vulnerable and alone in an increasingly hostile environment and has to use his wits to save his skin.

In the US Jordan Peele is known for his Comedy Central sketch show Key & Peele. Written and directed by Peele, this is his Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner take on contemporary liberal racism in the US – and the everyday racism that Chris expects and patiently submits to – where vestiges of the ingrained attitudes of centuries of slavery on the country’s home turf still remain. He uncovers and explodes them brilliantly in this hugely entertaining horror-comedy-satire.

Get Out premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and is released on 17 March 2017 in the UK. It won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Jordan Peele in March 2018.

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