Get Out

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Movies

“Get Out” is a truly original horror film experience. Writer/director Jordan Peele, who has a background in comedy, is able to weave humor and satire into a striking, sometimes shocking thriller about a black man going to his white girlfriend’s parents’ house to ‘meet the parents’ for the first time.

This premise seems more appropriate for a summer rom-com; but Peele uses it as a chance to make a statement about race relations, and status in this country. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) has been dating Rose (Allison Williams) for about 5 months, and Rose wants him to come to her parents’ country house for the weekend. Chris, who is a photographer by trade, is a bit worried when he asks her, “Do they know?” She plays coy, but eventually relents that she hasn’t told them. She doesn’t think it’s a big deal, but Chris has obviously had some experience and braces himself. According to her, this is also her first black boyfriend, so Chris is even more sure that there will be an issue. Rose assures him that her parents are extremely liberal and open minded, and her dad would have “voted for Obama for a third term if he could have”. As patronizing as that sounds, it at least sets Chris at ease that maybe they won’t make as much of an issue of it as he initially feared. Chris has his friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery) take care of his dog while they’re gone, and they set off to the country house.

On the way, they accidentally hit a deer. This affects Chris, as he watches the deer die off in the woods by the side of the road. That along with a roadside incident with a white police officer, who seems to have more of a problem with Rose than Chris, sets a somewhat ominous tone. We think we know what we’re in for at this point–but Jordan Peele does have some surprises for us.

When we meet Rose’s parents, Missy (Catherine Keener), and Dean (Bradley Whitford), we see what Rose was talking about. Dean speaks highly of Obama, and keeps calling Chris “my man”. Missy is very welcoming, and casual. Neither have an issue with Chris being black, and Rose teases Chris about him being wrong. But there is something a bit strange: the two caretakers of the house–Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson)–are black. Dean plays this off as irony, because the two of them actually took care of his father, who died years ago, and kept them on so that they’d be employed somewhere. Dean explains that his father finished behind Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Chris laments it’s a shame his father had to live that down, but Dean brushes it off, that Owens was the best. A seemingly innocuous exchange, but it has a little more importance as we dig deeper into the story.

Eventually Rose’s brother comes, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), who takes an interest in Chris as an athlete. He challenges him to a fight obnoxiously, but Chris is pulled away by the family who chastise Jeremy for being rude. Rose apologizes to Chris by the end of the night, in which Chris smirks and says, “I was right.”

The following day, Rose discovers that the family had been planning their annual big get together with the rest of the family and other friends, which means even more white people for Chris to have to try and figure out who is going to make him feel more uncomfortable. It’s some commentary about “being the only black surrounded by whites”–no matter how obsequious or polite, it still makes someone feel out of place. But there’s even more unsettling things going on at this party. Not only are the whites trying to impress Chris with their accepting demeanor, but the only black person who does show up–as a guest of an older white woman–acts strangely, and seems out of place himself.

As things start falling into place, Chris realizes he’s somewhat become trapped into this little world, and uneasiness and awkwardness give way to outright fear. He allows himself to be hypnotized by Missy, who wants to help him quit smoking–and that starts to become a problem for Chris once he realizes what they’re up to.

The film has some familiar tropes and Peele does a nice job of sending the message that he’s aware of the familiarity. So he throws a few wrenches into the plot, and mixes things up a bit. It’s a clever film, and has some biting commentary, especially because the racial undertones don’t have to do with Southern white yokels, but rather seemingly intellectual whites who try to come off as unprejudiced. I’m sure Peele has some personal experience with this, and his cynicism is well displayed throughout the film. The performances are very strong and credible, particularly Daniel Kaluuya as Chris, who really wants to just survive this crazy family weekend and get back to his life. He also has a dark secret about his past that becomes exploited at some point, creating another layer for the narrative of the film, which was already strong to begin with.

For a first time effort, this is a fantastic exercise in horror and satire, and Peele has certainly laid the groundwork for a brilliant filmmaking career. This isn’t for the squeamish–for gore or social commentary. So come in with a strong constitution, and a truly open mind, and you will be greatly rewarded.

My rating: :D

Where The Wild Things Are

October 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured Content, Movies

This has to be one of the most well known children’s books of all time. Anyone who is anyone remembers this book being read to them by teachers, or their parents, when they were growing up. Alongside our various “Ramona” and “Berenstain Bears” books, was an old library copy of “Where the Wild Things Are”. I remember very little about the book, except the monsters.

The film, directed by Spike Jonze (”Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “Being John Malkovich”), explores the book’s very thin idea about imagination, and creates a real world surrounding an imaginary one reminding me a bit of “The Neverending Story”. In fact, the beginnings of both movies were similar. A young boy with a big imagination is an outcast among his peers and comes from a broken family. In “The Neverending Story”, the character Bastian skips school and falls into the world of the book he’s reading. In “Where the Wild Things Are”, Max loses himself in a far-off island inhabited by big (and somewhat scary) monsters who are facing a crisis.

The film has an uneven feel to it at first because we’re not exactly sure what to like about Max. He’s obnoxious and likes to run around and scream a lot. But what exactly is his problem? Is it the fact that no one listens to him? Is it that he has no friends? We’re not even really sure if he does or not. But I guess we’re supposed to feel sorry for him. I’ll admit that I didn’t really, at first. When he first reaches the island with the monsters, they’re having problems with a monster named Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini); and, like Max, they’re not really sure what his problem is, either. But he’s throwing a temper tantrum, and Max joins in. Carol takes to Max, thinking maybe they understand each other–and Max convinces the monsters that he is a king. Carol makes him their king, and like in the book, they have a “wild rumpus”.

At this point in the film, I was really lost on what this was about. It seemed to have no direction. Because the screenplay didn’t flesh out Max’s character enough, we’re only left with a bunch of howling creatures and a howling boy set against a howling soundtrack.

But once the plot unfolds with bringing a conflict in, it does take shape and in the end, redeems itself. A character, KW, has two owl friends named Bob and Terry that for some reason Carol doesn’t like. What you don’t find out is why–but I believe that may be the point. Carol is just being selfish and while he wants everything to be the way it was–with everyone together–he refuses to change himself or be more open minded. In Max’s real life situation, he is exactly like Carol. He’s broken away from his family because he doesn’t want to adapt or accept change.

At least, that’s what I got out of it. The film’s major flaw is the directionlessness of the first two acts. It has moments of fun and laughter; but because it seems to have no purpose, sometimes it feels empty and hard to follow. And for a supposedly imaginative movie about the exploration of imagination, it seemed fairly unimaginative in its execution.  I could see not only the children in the audience squirming, but the parents were just as clueless and impatient. The film finishes strong, however; and James Gandolfini’s fine performance as Carol saves the movie. His intensity and sadness provide depth that allows you to feel something for him. And him being the window character for Max, we feel something for him as well.

Overall, the film is a good one–but I’m not sure what kids will take away from it. If they’re not incredibly petrified by the monsters, they might be confused by what is going on during the movie and wondering why the monsters are depressed. But if they get the fact that the movie is about selfishness and why it’s important to open your mind and change with the situation, then the film has done its job.

I just think it could have been done a bit better.

My rating: :smile: