In the last few weeks, Get Out has captured the zeitgeist of the Western World by taking the box office by storm. This is a continuation of a series of successful films about the African American experience, with recent efforts such as Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave also receiving significant amounts of praise. Although both of these films see black characters triumph in the face of adversity, the makers were unable to resist including a white saviour for the black protagonists (Brad Pitt’s excruciatingly preachy cameo in 12 Years is one example). Get Out is different though, expressing cynicism concerning such people by pointing out that white liberals are facilitators of racism too.
Having dated for a few months, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and his girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) decide to pay a visit to her family in order to take the relationship to the next level. Whilst this is a daunting prospect for many, Chris is more anxious than most due to the fact that Rose (who is white) has not informed her well-to-do parents that he is black. When he meets them some of his concerns are validated as, despite being liberals, there seems to be a patronising as well as racist undertone to everything they say to Chris (Rose’s father, for instance, expresses a cringe-inducing love for Barack Obama). Initially he ignores this, obviously used to dealing with this problem as well as keen to make the relationship with Rose work. As the film progresses though, his opinion begins to change, with the attitude of his hosts morphing into a nightmarish philosophy which belies their seemingly progressive values.
Whilst I am reluctant to talk about the plot, I feel that there is a lot I can say about the subtext of the film without ruining it. As a white liberal, I (like many others) often behave in a manner which suggests that my views regarding race are unequivocally correct. After watching this though, I began to feel a sense of guilt, with its message pointing out that some attempts to combat racism are, perhaps, as damaging as explicitly racist views. This is due to many (I include myself in this category) isolating stereotypes, just like racists, but perceiving this to be appropriate as they are complimenting these traits instead of criticising them. The film therefore encourages people like myself to think twice before sharing such misinformed opinions of ethnic minorities as they are clearly designed to provide a cynical dopamine hit that reinforces progressive credentials.
In terms of performances, everybody involved clearly seem to be heavily invested in the material. Kaluuya (who has a penchant for interesting roles) expresses convincing anxiety through his character, something which he drew upon from his own experiences with this problem in the film industry. His hosts, too, are excellently portrayed, with Rose and her family executing white condescension to perfection. Another performer, who has not received as much attention, is Chris’ friend Rod (Lil Red Howery). This actor gives a memorably comedic performance, helping to seamlessly blend comedy into what is an unremittingly nasty movie about racism.
Credit also has to go to the director (Jordan Peele) too. Despite the film’s low budget ($4.5 million), he has produced a box office smash which has taken $156 million worldwide so far. By doing so, Peele has cleverly helped to deliver a crucial film about race relations in the US, combing an important message with a popular movie genre so that people pay attention. He has also shown maturity through this work, moving away from lighthearted material he produced with his comedy partner Keegan-Michael Key in favour of something more hard-hitting . As such, I hope this is the beginning of an illustrious career as an auteur for Peele, where he builds an oeuvre tackling continuing racial issues in the US in a political climate which is crying out for intelligent political commentators.