‘Get Out’ earns its laughs while honoring horror traditions

SHARE ‘Get Out’ earns its laughs while honoring horror traditions

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) meets the parents of girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) in “Get Out.” | Universal Pictures

It’s “The Attack of the Well-Meaning White People”!

When a white woman named Rose (Allison Williams) takes her black boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) out to the country to meet her family and their friends, Chris is met with smiles and hugs and welcoming words — and one not-so-subtle, outwardly benevolent but cringe-inducing racial aside after another, including:

“My man! We hug in this family!”

“I would have voted for Obama a third time if I could have.”

“Do you play golf? I know Tiger!”

“With your genetic makeup … you could be a beast [as an MMA fighter]!”

The first act of writer-director Jordan Peele’s electric and provocative and slyly brilliant “Get Out” plays like an extended “Key & Peele” sketch, with the aforementioned Well-Meaning White People tripping over themselves to welcome Chris to the community with their patronizing actions while his girlfriend scrambles to apologize for them and to reassure Chris she doesn’t care what people think, because she loves him.

It’s great stuff, but it’s just the beginning of the fantastically creative journey.

As the weekend rolls on, Chris feels as if he’s sinking into an increasingly bizarre and dangerous abyss, where even his worst fears might not match the reality of what is happening.

“Get Out” is a cutting-edge, fresh and sometimes bat-bleep-crazy mash-up of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” and “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Stepford Wives,” with dashes of John Carpenter’s “They Live,” among other films, mixed in for good measure. It is weird and it is funny, and some of the racial humor might well make you squirm in your seat, and how great is that? We need more movies that dare to start a conversation, all the while entertaining the hell out of us.

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams have a comfortable, terrific chemistry as Chris and Rose, who have been dating for five months and are in that honeymoon phase of twentysomething love.

It’s time for Chris to Meet the Parents, so off they go on a drive to the country, while Chris’ best friend Rod (Lil Rel Howery), a TSA agent who takes his job very seriously, looks after Chris’ dog and acts as Chris’ weekend sounding board via cell phone.

Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener are perfectly cast as Rose’s sweater-clad parents, Dean and Missy, who look like they’ve stepped off a poster for Middle-Aged, Upper-Class Liberalism. Dad’s a neurosurgeon and Mom’s a psychiatrist, and like just about everything else in “Get Out,” those details matter, and I’ll say no more.

Director Peele peppers in some familiar horror movie touches, from the unexpected traffic accident to the SUDDEN MUSIC STING to pop us out of our seats, to the obligatory sealed door that of course won’t remain sealed for the entire movie. For a long time we’re kept guessing as to what genre of movie we’re experiencing here. Slasher film? Zombie movie? Bloodless social satire? Something entirely different?

Rose’s parents employ two black “servants,” as her dad calls them: Georgina (Betty Gabriel), a maid who dresses as if she’s auditioning for “The Help,” and Walter (Marcus Henderson), a hulking “groundskeeper” with a strange, anachronistic way of expressing himself, and we’ll leave it at that.

The invaluable character actor Stephen Root (“Office Space,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Justified,” pretty much every other TV show and movie) shows up as a blind art dealer and fan of photography, because that makes sense. Caleb Landry Jones is suitably creepy as Rose’s lacrosse-playing d-bag of a brother.

Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams in “Get Out.” | Universal Pictures

Lil Rel Howery as Rod Williams in “Get Out.” | Universal Pictures

Howery gives a starmaking performance as Chris’ best friend, who remains fiercely loyal to Chris and to his TSA training, even as others mock his TSA training. Most of the comedian’s scenes are cell-phone conversations where he’s playing off characters who are in another locale — and it’s a joy to behold his timing and his delivery.

It takes a while — maybe a bit too long — for “Get Out” to reveal its hand and let us in on the dark and twisted truth. But once we get there, Peele shows a great touch for action sequences, and he delivers one of the most satisfying climaxes to a thriller in recent memory.

Allison Williams and Daniel Kaluuya have movie-star good looks — and movie-star talent. They each get showcase moments alone and together in “Get Out,” and they knock those scenes out of the park.

But the real star of the film is writer-director Jordan Peele, who has created a work that addresses the myriad levels of racism, pays homage to some great horror films, carves out its own creative path, has a distinctive visual style — and is flat-out funny as well.


Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by Jordan Peele. Rated R (for violence, bloody images, and language including sexual references.). Running time: 105 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.

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