Susan Granger’s review of “Get Out” (Universal Pictures/Blumhouse)
Giving a satirical jolt to what’s been described as “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” meets “The Stepford Wives,” Jordan Peele in his directing debut has created one of the most critically acclaimed horror movies in recent years.
As Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) packs to join his girlfriend, Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), on a weekend in the country to meet her parents, he hesitantly asks her if she’s told them that he’s black. Amplifying the edginess, Chris’ paranoid TSA buddy Rod (Lil Rel Howery) repeatedly urges him not to go.
(The audience is already wary, witnessing a prologue in which a black pedestrian in suburbia is stalked and stuffed into the trunk of a car.)
But Rose quickly assures anxious Chris that her parents, Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford), will welcome him with open arms. Yet their overt geniality is suspicious.
Dean’s a neurosurgeon, an Obama-admirer who says it’s cool to be black, and Missy’s an Earth Motherly hypnotherapist who offers to help Chris kick his smoking addiction.
Chris’ uneasiness is understandable, particularly in the eerily ominous presence of the African-American housekeeper (Betty Gabriel) and gardener (Marcus Henderson) who previously cared for Rose’s elderly grandparents and are “like family.” Plus, Rose’s pugnacious brother (Caleb Landry Jones) seems overly competitive.
As an observant photographer, Chris’s discomfort heightens during a garden party at which the elite guests’ stereotypical veneer cracks. Their bizarre behavior heightens Chris’s feeling of vulnerability, impelling him to escape.
Having honed his skill on Comedy Central’s “Key & Peele,” writer/director Jordan Peele knows the difference between satire and parody. His subversive, surrealist sequences are stunning, depicting the soul-sucking danger posed by so-called liberals.
“The real thing here is slavery and sex,” Peele says. “In a social thriller, like this, the monster is society.”
As the black Everyman surrogate, British Daniel Kaluuya (“Sicario”) is superb, exuding the sensitivity of Sidney Poitier with a touch of Jimmy Stewart.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Get Out” is an astute 8, an insidiously scathing, cinematic commentary on racial tension in America.