Get Out opens with a scene that might as well be ripped from a newspaper headlines. Well, maybe it was. Andrew (Lakeith Stanfield), a black man walks alone, at night, along a neighborhood street so quiet, so pleasant, so blandly cookie cutter, it must be a white suburban neighborhood. Andrew talks on his cell phone, trying to locate his friend’s house, when a White Trans Am rolls up on him, pulls a U-turn and slowly follows him. “Not today,” Andrew mutters to himself before doubling back.
The scene is taught with racial tension — this is more than a simple allusion to Trayvon Martin — but Stanfield plays it for laughs. It’s a terrifying situation, one all too familiar to a black man in a suspicious white world. What weapon does he have at his disposal besides gallows humor?
Andrew isn’t the only one who needs to watch his back. Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) has been dating Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) for a couple of months and it’s time to meet the parents. They don’t know he’s black — she’s white — but that won’t matter to them. Sure, they’re the upstate country club type but Rose assures Chris that her father loves black people, would have voted for Obama for a third term if he could have. And Mom, well, she’s Mom. They’re parents and as far as Rose is concerned, their only sin is being lame.
As any savvy watcher in the audience knows, this is far from the truth. Chris’s best friend, TSA agent Rod (LilRel Howery) also suspects that a trip upstate is a bad idea. Partly because Rod is on to something and partly because he is weary of white people in general. Chris might be too but he’s trying really hard to be politically correct in a world that isn’t ready to reciprocate. Chris remains guarded but he’s trying to trust. Trust Rose, trust his potential in-laws and trust that America might actually be post-racial.
In the hands of writer/director Jordan Peele, Chris’s plight is equal parts reality and nightmare. When Chris meets Rose’s father, Dean (Bradley Whitford), he is reassured that even though he and Missy (Catherine Keener) have black servants — who behave oddly and are extremely suspicious of Chris — that they are progressive, loved Obama and hold Jesse Owens in high regard, even going so far as to frame a picture of the latter and hang it on their wall — how many white suburban kids slept under a poster of Magic Johnson? Of Michael Jordan? Of Kobe Bryant? But listen to the way Dean says that there is “black mold” in the basement. Chris hears it too. It’s the same tone the police officer used when he asked for Chris’s driver’s license.
What happens at Armitage house is too good, too unusual, too expertly crafted to spoil. Peele may be a comedian by trade but comedy is about timing and being able to tell a story. Get Out is well told, impressively rendered and creepy as all hell. It also sports an awful lot of laughs without labored set-ups or forced punch lines. The whole movie flows with ease as if what happens inside the frame is the most natural and acceptable thing in the world. What a horrible thought.
Written & directed by Jordan Peele
Produced by Jason Blum, Edward H. Hamm Jr., Sean McKittrick, Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones, Lakeith Stanfield, LilRel Howery
Universal Pictures, Rated R, Running time 103 minutes, Opens February 24, 2017. Streaming on DirecTV.