Friday, February 24, 2017

Get Out: Racial Politics, Blumhouse-Style

Rose Armitage’s parents are truly terrifying. They are rich white liberals who would have voted for Obama a third time if they had the chance. That alone sounds pretty creepy, but they go out of their way to be hospitable when Rose brings her African American boyfriend home for a visit. However, they have nefarious ulterior motives for their warm welcome in Jordan Peele’s Blumhouse-produced Get Out (trailer here), which opens today nationwide.

Armitage promises Chris Washington her parents will not freak out when they meet him and initially they live up to her assurances. Frankly, they might be trying to act a little too cool. Her jerkweed brother Jeremy is a different story, but everyone seems duly embarrassed by him. Washington is slightly put off by the constant offers from Rose’s hypnotherapist mom Missy to stop his smoking habit through post-hypnotic suggestion, but it is the eerily quiet live-in housekeeper and handyman (both African American) who first stir his suspicions.

Washington really starts to get freaked when a missing acquaintance of his TSA buddy Rod Williams turns up at the Armitages’ garden party on the arm of a late middle-aged white woman, acting thoroughly lobotomized. He will snap out of it long enough to provide the titular warning, but by this point the trap is set. Williams and his TSA-honed crime-fighting instincts possibly represent Washington’s best hope, so he should probably start saying his prayers.

Since there is really nothing to satirize in the Trump White House these days, Peele profitably turns his attention towards limousine (or at least McMansion) liberals. As part of the Key & Peele duo, he has relatively little comedy experience, but he makes the transition quite smoothly with Get Out. Of course, many of the laughs come from a dark “you’re in trouble now, dude” kind of place, just like most successful horror comedies. Granted, the actual evil plot afoot is beyond ludicrous, but Peele still gets us to buy in, thanks to the potent feeling of paranoia he so deftly keeps cranking up.

Daniel Kaluuya is serviceable enough as Washington, the not completely clueless but still insufficiently intuitive potential victim. Allison Williams perfectly plays with and off him as Rose Armitage, adding a meta element as the daughter of MSNBC news reader Brian Williams and a cast-member of HBO’s Girls. Similarly, West Wing’s Bradley Whitford (so wonderfully manic in the Broadway revival of Boeing-Boeing) is uncomfortably convincing as the predatory liberal, Dean Armitage. Lil Rel Howery is a bit shticky as Williams, but he still scores a good deal of laughs, often at his own expense. However, it is Betty Gabriel (in her third Blumhouse production) who really brings the weirdness as the disturbingly spaced-out domestic, Georgina.

One might argue Get Out is not nearly as didactic as it has been cracked up to be. Maybe it is an awkward viewing experience if you identify with the Armitages of the world, but if you are coming from a different perspective, it is easy to just laugh at their mayhem. Recommended for its paranoid nuttiness, Get Out opens today (2/24) in New York at multiple locations, including the AMC Empire.