Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 3, 2017

Critic's Corner: Get out and see "Get Out''

A few minutes into watching “Get Out,” I thought I had the movie pegged. But I was wrong. Yet while I liked the way the film took advantage of my expectations to throw me off guard, its conventional ending disappointed me.

I’ll come back to the ending. For now, I’ll deal with the beginning.

“Get Out” opens with a young black man named Chris fretting over meeting the parents of his white girlfriend, Rose. “Do they know I’m black?” he asks. “Why would they?” she asks. “They’re not racist.”

To ease his concerns, Rose tells Chris her dad would have voted for Obama a third time.

The couple drives to an idyllic part of what I assume is the Deep South. The trouble with making assumptions while watching “Get Out” is that many of them will be wrong. What I do know is that her parents aren’t hurting for money, as they live on a gorgeous estate surrounded by a big lawn and tall trees.

They also have a number of black workers, which Chris immediately notices. “I know what you’re thinking,” Rose’s dad, Dean, says before giving their presence a plausible explanation.

First-time director Jordan Peele does a great job of slowly turning up the heat and creating an unsettling sense of danger. At first, Chris notices the vacuous look on the faces of the help. When he tries to have a conversation with one of them, the sickly sweet tone in which the man replies reminded me of “The Stepford Wives.”

Things get even weirder when Rose’s mom hypnotizes Chris to cure him of smoking. Soon, Chris is snapping puzzle pieces together, only he’s trying to assemble a picture of a cat when the puzzle is really a photograph of a dog.

Peele’s direction is clever. He stays focused on Chris, making it easy for the audience to buy into his misguided theory. When Peele steps away from Chris for the first time and pulls the rug out from under feet of his viewers, it’s a startling moment made all the more effective by its sudden but understated nature. I was so taken back, I laughed out loud.

Peele’s writing is smart, too. For starters, he gives Chris a heartbreaking backstory that makes him vulnerable to psychological tampering. He also leaves a trail of nifty little breadcrumbs – in the form of snippets of dialog – that viewers can look back on to see how the movie led them to believe one thing when another was true. And as Peele puts things in place for the big reveal, his construction of the plot is airtight.

Sure, when Chris takes a picture of one of the servants without turning off his phone’s flash and gets an unexpected response, you’ll know the flash is going to come into play later. But at least Peele took the time to lay the groundwork. Too many thrillers are lazy and don’t bother.

This finally brings me back to the climax of “Get Out.” While Peele carefully planned and executed the ending, all of his hard work was for naught, as things are resolved in a manner typical of most thrillers. Even without the twist, “Get Out” would have ended awash in clichés.

The ending is also a bit over the top, too, seemingly in service to the audience. Maybe I’m missing the point, and Peele meant for the shift from originality to banality to be ironic, but I don’t think so.

Regardless, “Get Out” serves up a good time at the movies. I especially like the performance of Daniel Kaluuya, who plays Chris. He sells everything his character experiences, from his insecurity over meeting Rose’s parents, to his initial suspicions, to the fear he feels upon being hypnotized and exiled to a dark and terrifying place in his mind.

I was awestruck watching the tears well up in his eyes and then roll down his cheeks as he was taken there.

Actress Betty Gabriel also has a remarkable moment as Georgina, one of the servants. Although she played a bit part, Peele gave her the burden of pulling off a crucial scene, and she nailed it.

If only Peele had nailed the ending of “Get Out.” I imagine many viewers will like how he wraps things up, but given the ingenuity of what came before, I would have preferred a less conventional conclusion that didn’t try so hard to make me cheer. I liked the parts of the movie that had me starting at the screen in abject fear better, and wouldn’t have minded staring at the credits in the same manner.

“Get Out” largely works, though, and even manages to deliver a dose of stinging social commentary about racism in the process. But even that won’t be what you expect.