By: Gideon Small ‘18
American-made movies usually undergo a post-Oscars slump in the spring, but psychological thriller Get Out reminds us that great movies can be made all year round and under any set of circumstances. Get Out had so many obstacles in its way: a meager 1.5-million budget, a first-time director with no experience in the psychological thriller genre, a cast with very few screen credits to their name, and the preconceived notion that most American-made movies released in March are only searching for box office successes and not film quality. However, this movie is not most movies.
This film should not have been the writer/director/producer’s calling card. The movie’s director, Jordan Peele, more famously known as Peele from the Key and Peele comedy duo, is a comedy writer. However, Peele does an excellent job of not letting his comedy roots detract from the way we are supposed to feel at any given point in the movie. We laugh when we are supposed to laugh, but still tremble when we are supposed to tremble in fear. Peele’s comedy background allows us enjoy the best of both worlds while watching Get Out. It grants us suspense to make us scared, but comedy to make us happy. These two polar opposite emotions do not get in the way of each other over the course of the film.
Get Out is Peele’s directorial debut. Generally, when it is somebody’s first time trying something, you expect an amateur result. However, Peele is able to move past the struggles a first-time director would most likely encounter. There is no indication that Peele and his crew spent time worrying about the basics such as where to place the camera, or whether or not the lighting on set was precise enough. There is a professionalism to the technical aspects of the movie that only an experienced director would be able to achieve, but Peele did it effortlessly on his first try.
Peele’s ability to move past the amateur struggles opens up the opportunity for him to focus on several nuanced issues of society through the use of film. This movie, while entertaining, enjoyable, and scary, is an insightful commentary on relations between black and white people in America. The main question that this movie asks is whether or not a majority, when in an environment of people of that same majority, can make the minority in that given environment feel like an outsider without even trying. In the movie, Chris, the main character, is a black man who is visiting his white girlfriend’s family out in the suburbs for a weekend. Chris is the only black man within miles who is not working as a housewife or a groundskeeper. This movie discusses the way one group of people can alienate another group. What’s more, you are able to feel alienated right with Chris because the story is seen through his point of view. Because of this technique of seeing the movie through the eyes of the alienated, you can empathize with the outcast, and also feel like you, the viewer, are unwanted by the entirely white community.
Furthermore, the way Chris’ girlfriend’s family physically and verbally responds to his very presence makes him feel unwanted. Every time Chris walks from the first floor of the house to the second, all of the white people on the first floor look up and down the stairwell at the exact same time. Simple conversations between Chris and the other members of the suburban community always make him feel uncomfortable. Nobody asks Chris how his day was, or what he does for a living. Everybody asks Chris about his ability to play sports and perform in the bedroom, even though there is no indication that Chris can even play sports. Chris is unnerved by these encounters, and so is the audience. These strange and artificial conversations between Chris and the others, while still just being small talk, are the perfect way to shine light on how a minority group can feel alienated by others in the most basic ways. Even in small talk, inequality can exist.
The editing of this film is impeccable, with each event lending itself to the next at the right point in time. The climax of this film, while bizarre and contrived in its content, is completely believable for the audience because of the development of the story. Peele’s ability to make something bizarre, such as a family dedicating themselves to hypnotizing an entire race of people, appear realistic is proof that the execution of the storyline is top-notch.
If there is one problem with the movie, it is that while the approach to commenting on race relations in society is original, the plot in itself is just not believable. The amount of creativity to make this storyline feel real is proof that the story can’t exactly hold up on its own. However, the excellent job done by Peele and the editing crew makes up for the ridiculous plot. Anything short of excellent production would have just caused the audience to disengage, laugh at the wrong times, and feel no reason to empathize with Chris. As stated previously, this family actually dedicates their lives to kidnapping and hypnotizing black people; it’s ridiculous. Fortunately, Peele knew what he was doing with the screenplay he wrote, so it all worked out in the end.
With all of these impressive aspects of the movie, the first question that needs to be asked is why this movie wasn’t released in time for awards season? A movie of this caliber can hold up against any type of competition from other movies, so what made the producers wait until March?