After making his feature film debut “Keanu” with his comedy partner, Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele has ventured into genre filmmaking for his latest project, “Get Out.” Peele created a smart horror-comedy with socially conscious undertones in what makes for a remarkable debut for a first-time director.
The premise is simple: A black man (Daniel Kaluuya) meets his white girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) family for the first time, yet the story is still complex. What’s first thought to be the family’s ineptness in dealing with the daughter’s interracial couple slowly becomes more disturbing as truths unfold about the family’s true intentions.
Kaluuya and Williams shine among a strong supporting cast that includes Catherine Keener (“Being John Malkovich,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”), Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing,” “The Cabin in the Woods”), Lakeith Stanfield (“Short Term 12”) and Milton “Lil Rel” Howery (“The Carmichael Show”).
The acting is fantastic across the board. Kaluuya carries the film, showing his charisma and his dramatic and comedic acting chops. Since garnering attention for his incredible performance in his episode of “Black Mirror,” Kaluuya has been a rising star in Hollywood, and “Get Out” may vault him to stardom.
But it’s Chicago native Howery that steals the movie. Knocking almost every line of dialogue out of the park, Howery provides most of the laughs in “Get Out.” Playing the role of Kaluuya’s paranoid best friend, Howery acts as the eyes of the audience, allowing us to see all the madness as it happens through his character. He had the theater roaring in laughter every time he was on screen, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in more comedies down the line.
“Get Out” operates on two levels: comedy and horror. Although marketed primarily as a horror film, I found the comedy to be the stronger element. Rarely were the scares in “Get Out” frightening, but there was a suspended sense of eeriness that hung in the theater throughout the film. Peele often relied on music to create his scares, although this isn’t to say that the horror is misguided or unappreciated. The blend of the two genres elevates the film into a great “midnight movie;” that is, a cult film that theaters will play at midnight screenings, along the lines of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975) or “Eraserhead” (1977).
Peele sets the tone for “Get Out” in the first scene. Viewers get a blend of genres right away, and much of the film’s success can be attributed to scenes like this that show Peele’s sharp writing. The film takes its time early on, slowly building until a third act that sends the theater into pandemonium. The twists and turns the plot takes are clever and well-executed, and the final 30 minutes of the movie are why you should see “Get Out” in theaters. Peele manipulates his audience so effectively, taking a page out of Alfred Hitchcock’s playbook. He gives viewers what he knows they want — and some they didn’t even know they wanted.
Peele’s cunning writing isn’t limited to the entertaining third act. “Get Out” has serious depth that impressively remains unobtrusive or distracting to the enjoyment of the film. There’s cultural commentary on race relations in Peele’s script, but it never sacrifices the story to make its point. The film addresses important topics such as microaggressions and interracial relationships with shrewd and subtle dialogue-based interactions.
The end of “Get Out” could’ve packed even more of an emotional and artistically ambitious punch if it took a darker route with its ending. Peele plays a couple key moments near the end of the film for comedy, but he could’ve just as easily taken the movie in a more haunting, politically relevant direction without becoming overly preachy. The decision to go for comedy in its final moments may ultimately be a missed opportunity for something that would’ve elevated the film as a whole.
Regardless of this personal gripe, “Get Out” is an overwhelming success for Peele and his team. As a firsttime director, Peele showed tremendous skill and maturity behind the camera. He created a movie that is altogether hilarious, creepy and thematically rich — reminding us that it’s OK to laugh at the worst of ourselves sometimes. “Get Out” is a film to see in theaters and is now playing in theaters across Chicago.