Get Out has proven without a shadow of doubt that in today's Hollywood, critical praise has less to do with traditional cinematic qualities like strength of story, richness of character, and technical craftsmanship, and more to do with a film's relative scale of "wokeness". The blackest, gayest, most leftist movie wins. Jordon Peele's directing debut hits high marks on the traditional criteria. It's a refreshingly original horror movie with some good performances, and it's staged well by the less funny half of the comedy group, Key and Peele. In a sane world, that would be all the movie is. But... and it's a big but, Get Out is a race movie. A race movie whose regressive views on black/white relations made it a sensation with critics, and a frustratingly divisive ordeal for me.
The biggest strength Get Out has is that it is an original piece of work. Underneath all the flashy racial business dominating the conversation around the movie, is a very cool horror movie premise. A family kidnaps young, virile strangers in an attempt to ultimately live through their bodies. It's interesting as written, and when things heat up towards the end of this movie, it leads to some electrifying, sustained tension. I wish that that was all the story had on its mind, but it's not. No, the movie has to bring race into things. The evil family doesn't kidnap just any young, cool, or physically superior bodies. They only kidnap black people.
The message of Get Out can be debated. Is it a critique on standard white racism or the subtle racism of white liberals? Who knows. I read it as the latter, but any way you look at it, Get Out ultimately concludes that "Black people ought to be scared of white people". And there lies the reason this very well done horror movie has to get a thumbs down from me. The portrayal of the relationship between black and white characters here is the dictionary definition of 'regressive'. Every black person in the movie is distrustful, and scared of white people, and the white people in the movie... well. The white people in this film are all irredeemably evil, which is deplorable in its own right, but Peele undercuts even his own metaphor by having them behave unlike any human who has ever lived. These are an alien's version of what evil white people are like. They gleefully discuss their love of black bodies (which nobody has ever done), and their dialogue is so tin-eared, performed with such rote formality that it's impossible to take them seriously as characters. They aren't characters. The white people in Get Out are evil aliens, every single one of them. Most troubling about this is that these are meant to be stand-ins for society at large.
Jordan Peele wants to make a point that even though overt racism has settled down in modern society, subtle racism is worse than ever. It is a decidedly ugly view of people, one designed to stoke the flames of fear and distrust; to drive a massive wedge between whites and blacks until we share no common ground. When it is revealed that this evil white conspiracy stems from their jealousy of black people, I just about lost it. This has to be the most ass-backwards anti-racism movie ever made. It's not a call for understanding, it's a paranoid revenge fantasy, and it made me sick to my stomach. White people leave the theater hopeless (There is nothing they can do to redeem their evil ways. They just have to be killed), and black people leave the theater more fearful and distrustful of white people than when they walked in (Even the people who don't seem racist are out to get you).
The racial politics of this movie are borderline reprehensible. For all Get Out has going for it, and that is a lot (Daniel Kaluuya delivers a great, subdued central performance, LilRel Howery provides some fun comic relief, and Jordon Peele keeps the tension high), it's all ruined by the very thing that is responsible for the movie's absurd critical fawning. What really sucks is that had this movie been a straightforward horror mystery, it would have really worked. The race angle, as it is, provides nothing of substance, and worse, it's malicious. What could have been a terrific horror flick is strangled to death by a message movie that actively preaches fear. Of course critics love it.
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