‘Get Out’ brings black experience to cinema

Film offers bloody critique of politics, racial stereotypes

By Robert Clinton, Opinion Editor

Just living while black in America can be a horrifying  experience and “Get Out,” directed by Jordan Peele, exaggerates the motives behind uncomfortable, everyday encounters with post-racial liberals by weaving together a web of murder and mind manipulation.

The movie is groundbreaking in the horror genre and is the first film, created and directed by an African-American, to ever be backed by a major Hollywood studio.

“Get Out” premiered Jan. 24 at the Sundance Film Festival and instantly received critical acclaim for creating a social critique of American racism while using common micro-aggressions to guide the film to its eventual plot-twisting end.

The film departs from the safe ways Hollywood usually deals with race. It strips away the protection of historical context and places the responsibility squarely at the feet of those who scoff at how awful racism used to be.

In his directorial debut, Peele pays homage to classic Hollywood films like the iconic tale of interracial love “Look Who’s Coming to Dinner” and the “Stepford Wives,” a 1975 sci-fi thriller about mind-controlled housewives.

Since its Feb. 24 release, the film has grossed $76 million worldwide, despite only having a $4.5 million production budget.

The movie provides worst-case-scenario optics to common occurrences.

From the opening scene, Andrew (LaKeith Stanfield) finds himself lost in the kind of neighborhood where just existing while black can be a foreboding experience.

The film repeatedly taps into the all-too-genuine feelings many minorities navigate when determining if a race-based emotional response is warranted or is an overreaction.

With serenity as his pallet, Peele spoon feeds the audience an opening image of just how menacing the quiet suburbs of Anytown, USA can be.

“Get Out” is centered on the life of black photographer Chris Washington, played by Daniel Kaluuya. He has agreed to meet the parents of  his white girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams)  for the first time at the family’s secluded country home.

In the most horrifying “Look Who’s Coming to Dinner” synopsis ever, the movie uses interracial relationships, police brutality, race and sexuality to give moviegoers an authentic view of inherent racial stereotypes from the black perspective.

Washington, like many men, is skeptical about meeting his girlfriend’s parents. But his skepticism turns to trepidation when he learns that his girlfriend has yet to tell her parents that he is black.

Armitage assures her boyfriend that her family is progressive and completely cool with the idea of interracial dating.

She even goes so far as to say “if he could have, my father would have voted for Obama for a third term.”

Part of the uneasiness of the film stems from the innate American belief that racism is confined to southerners and is beneath the sensibilities of the liberal elite.

Washington finds the Armitage family to be as post-racial as the current American political system — whether they realize they are or not.

The Armitage father, Dean, (Bradley Whitford) mother, Missy (Catherine Keener) and son Jeremy (Caleb Landry-Jones) all take shots lobbing micro-aggressions at Washington during a family dinner aimed at getting to know him.

Initially, Washington believes the Armitage’s over-accommodating actions are an expression of nervousness about their daughter’s interracial relationship. But soon he senses a more ominous intent.

A recurring tool that Peele uses to perfection is his ability to give substance to the feeling of being in a room where everyone is too eager to show that they relate to you — or more importantly — to your blackness.

The director uses these micro-aggressions as breadcrumbs, helping viewers recognize the stereotypical objectification cues that thread each incident together, yet, without giving too many clues to where the plot is headed.

For Washington, more disturbing than the Armitage family, are the black groundskeeper Walter (Marcus Henderson) and black housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel).

(Dean) Armitage tells Washington that the pair were hired to take care of his aging parents, and when they died he couldn’t bear to let them go.

Although the two behave increasingly oddly as the film progresses, the prospect of being the only blacks living in the middle of nowhere makes their behavior, to Washington, somewhat understandable.

Adding fuel to Washington’s uncomfortable distrust of the Armitage family and hired help is his friend, TSA agent Rod Williams (Lil Rell Howery). 

Williams serves as Washington’s only reliable lifeline to the outside world and as comic relief in some of the most uncomfortably tense situations in the movie.

Williams character serves as the conscience of the viewer and when audience members scream “don’t go in that room,” Williams is on screen screaming right along with them.

Washington does his best to suss out the Armitage intent, despite the arrival of many family guests for an annual party.

As party goers become increasingly obsessed with Washington, the photographer finds peace behind the lens.

While burying his attention in his camera, Washington spots another black face across the yard. After speaking to his fellow foreigner, Washington’s excitement becomes still.

Not only does he display the same lifeless smile of the Armitage caretakers, he is conspicuously devoid of all the common traits of American blackness.

From that moment, Washington realizes the incidents are part of a larger plot and rather than be a hero, his only motivation is to get away.

Peele began writing the film in 2012, shortly after the death of Trayvon Martin. He changed the ending following the 2016 election season to adjust it to the new climate of race in America.

In an interview on the Combat Jack Show podcast Peele said, “This movie is for groups that deal with real life horrors and oppression. We need to go to the theater and scream to get out this frustration.

“I wanted to represent not only our skin, but also our perspective,” he said.