PLOT A young black man meets his white girlfriend’s parents.
CAST Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford
RATED R (language, bloody violence)
BOTTOM LINE First-time director Jordan Peele turns racial tension into grist for a brilliant horror-satire.
It’s been almost 50 years since Duane Jones starred in “Night of the Living Dead” as the lone black man in a town overrun by zombies. At the time, the movie’s mostly white monsters seemed like stand-ins for Middle Americans, those classic boogeymen of backwardness. Well, times have changed. In Jordan Peele’s horror-satire, “Get Out,” the white villains are a much different and possibly more sinister breed. They’re — gasp — liberals!
Though conceived years before the election of Donald Trump and a nationwide backlash against political correctness, “Get Out” is absolutely the movie of the moment, a sly commentary on America’s endless, torturous, seemingly hopeless hang-ups about race. Written and directed by Peele — half of the comedy duo Key & Peele, never ones to shy away from touchy subjects — “Get Out” is howlingly funny without really being a comedy and deliciously creepy without resorting to dumbed-down gore. It’s a major coup from Peele, who has said he wanted his film to do for blacks what “The Stepford Wives” did for women.
The movie’s premise is simple yet fraught with complications. Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), a young photographer, is about to meet the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams). She hasn’t mentioned color to them, because — hey, aren’t we all past that? Chris’ working-class friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery, who provides welcome dabs of comic relief) warns him about friendly white people, but to no avail. Chris’ misplaced trust will be his undoing.
Dean and Missy Armitage turn out to be your typical wealthy, oh-so-enlightened professionals (played in a case of spot-on casting by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener). “I would have voted for Obama a third time,” Dean volunteers quickly, one of many displays of colorblindness that only make Chris more self-conscious. And what’s with the family’s two black servants (Betty Gabriel and Marcus Henderson)? Their lobotomized smiles and perfect diction make them seem — dare Chris say it? — not black. Eventually, the Armitages’ well-appointed home becomes as malevolent as any antebellum plantation. There’s even a silent auction.
“Get Out” stumbles a bit near the end with a big reveal that isn’t as compelling as the buildup. That’s a minor complaint. All told, this is a sharp, funny, brave movie that strikes the perfect balance between humor and horror. It’s the year’s first must-see.
4 more ‘meet the folks’ films
Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” takes the “meet the parents” theme to a new level by mixing in horror. These four other films also show what can go wrong when you meet your significant other’s folks.
GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967) — Spencer Tracy (in his last film role) and Katharine Hepburn star as an upper-class couple whose liberal sensibilities are put to the test when they meet their daughter’s African-American fiancé (Sidney Poitier).
MEET THE PARENTS (2000) — There’s nothing but ill will between male nurse Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his future father-in-law (Robert De Niro) in this box-office smash that spawned two sequels.
MONSTER-IN-LAW (2005) — Jane Fonda’s first movie in 15 years found her playing an overbearing mother who takes an immediate dislike to her son’s fiancée (Jennifer Lopez) and sets out to sabotage their wedding plans. Fonda said she based her character on her third husband, Ted Turner.
OUR FAMILY WEDDING (2010) — America Ferrera and Lance Gross star as the happy couple whose engagement bliss turns sour when their families meet and they discover their dads (Carlos Mencia and Forest Whitaker) are enemies.
— Daniel Bubbeo