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Get Out [Movie Review]

In today’s episode I’ll be discussing the movie Get Out. If you haven’t seen the movie already you can still listen or watch but stop when you reach the spoiler section. That way you can still see and enjoy the movie without having the plot twist ruined for you.

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Show Notes

Get Out is a thriller written and directed by Jordan Peele. Before the film’s release, Peele was primarily known as a member of the comedy duo Key and Peele. Get Out was quite a departure from Peele’s previous projects and its story and unexpected success attracted a great deal of well-deserved attention.

I love movies that start with a bang and Get Out grabbed my attention from the very start. In the first scene, we see a young Black man (Lakeith Stanfield) who appears to be lost walking in a residential area at night. The neighborhood is quiet and features nice homes on tree-lined streets. Yet, in what to most would be a safe environment, there’s a feeling of unease.

Typically dark streets in movies are dangerous for women and children. But, given recent events and history, there’s an undercurrent of tension with this particular man, a Black man walking in such a place. On the surface, this is a nice neighborhood but there’s an uncomfortable feeling that seems to denote danger. I immediately feared for the young man’s safety. I don’t remember if it was ever explained why he was in the neighborhood but I raised an eyebrow and thought to myself that he better get out of there.

Sometimes when I watch movies, I find myself gripping the armrest and willing the person to follow my mental commands to safety. This happened when I saw a lone car coming down the street that began slowly following the young man. I held my breath and thought to myself that this can’t be good. I breathed a sigh of relief when the young man changed his course to avoid what he also recognized as a potential problem. Only to be stressed again when the car came to a stop and the driver exited the vehicle. A scuffle ensued and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

The film then shifted focus to Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose Armitage (Allison Williams) a young couple living in New York City. The two have been in a relationship for a few months and Rose has decided to take things to the next level. She invites Chris to travel upstate with her on a trip to meet her parents. This is a big step in most relationships and can be stressful. But, it’s especially tense for Chris because he’s uncertain about how Rose’s parents will receive him as a Black man dating their White daughter.

To make matters worse, Rose reveals that while her family is aware that she is bringing her new boyfriend along, she chose not to mention that he’s Black. Rose claims to not see color and believes that her family “isn’t like that” so Chris’ race won’t matter to them. She tries to reassure Chris that her family will love and welcome him as she does.

While driving upstate, the couple gets into an accident and at first, what they’ve collided with is unclear. It was a regular degular drive with regular car ride conversation. When the accident occurred whatever hit them looked like someone threw it at the car. I thought it was a person which was especially chilling because it didn’t seem to come from in front of the car but rather the side and from quite a height. Whatever it was, this thing was airborne and had some hangtime.

Shaken, they pulled over to assess the damage and figure out what they’d hit. Chris ventured a little way into the trees at the side of the road during which time Rose was telling him to leave whatever it was alone and stay near the car. I was relieved when it turned out to be a deer but then was sad again when I saw the weird look in its eyes.

The deer was laying on its side hurt and suffering but not dead. It was cute and I remember seeing its eye which was dark, large, and fixed with what seemed to be a tear running down the face. I was in my feelings for a quick minute about these people hitting Bambi.

Rose was driving at the time of the accident while Chris was riding shotgun. As a result, Rose took the lead in explaining the situation when a police officer arrived on the scene. Like much of Get Out, there are the events and conversations taking place on the surface and then the undertones and connotations.

It was an accident with no sign of them speeding or otherwise driving recklessly at the time. Yet, the officer for some inexplicable reason asks Chris to see his driver’s license. Chris without asking any questions prepares to follow the officer’s command and begins reaching for his wallet. But, Rose jumps in and aggressively challenges the police officer’s request to see Chris’ license if he wasn’t driving at the time of the accident. She tells Chris that he doesn’t have to follow the officer’s request and orders him not to hand over his ID.

There is a huge gulf between how Rose and Chris respond to the officer. Chris passively stands off to the side while Rose and the officer talk. When the officer addresses him, Chris is ready to comply without asking any questions or making demands. Rose speaks on Chris’ behalf and to a degree serves as his advocate. Granted, the sight of the dying deer might have traumatized Chris. But throughout the entire exchange, he’s a bystander who just follows whatever commands he’s given.

On the other hand, Rose stands between the two men and takes the lead in speaking to the police officer. When Chris is asked for his ID she immediately becomes verbally aggressive in a manner that could have tragically escalated the situation if it came from Chris. Yet, the officer pauses for a beat, remains calm, and drives away after giving them some more information.

We can’t be exactly sure of Chris’ feelings or thoughts at that moment because he doesn’t say anything. Meanwhile, Rose feels comfortable enough in her safety to engage a police officer in this manner on what appears to be a desolate road. At first, I interpreted the interaction as Rose being angry on her boyfriend’s behalf and using her privilege to stand up for him. And that is one way to view the interaction. But, given other events, I felt it might not have been that simple and she was silencing Chris. Rose tends to try to dictate what and the degree to which Chris should find things racially inappropriate or offensive. And downplays his stated discomfort in other situations regarding race. (SEE SPOILER 1)

When the couple finally arrives at the Armitage estate, it turns out to be a fairly large house on an ample amount of land. Rose’s parents, Dean and Missy, indeed welcome Chris with open arms and make a point to not have an obvious reaction to his being Black.

Dean, a neurosurgeon, comes across as an extrovert who goes above and beyond to be friendly and welcoming. But, I disliked him within a few minutes because he talked non-stop and quickly became annoying. It felt like he was trying too hard and his kindness wasn’t authentic. At first, he seems like an awkward dad trying to find common ground by attempting to use bits of Black slang and mentioning that his father lost to Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics. He also states that he would have voted for Obama a third time if he could have. (The Obama line is repeated several times and sounds like an updated version of “I can’t be racist because I have a Black friend who has been to my house.”)

Missy, is a bit harder to read. She is also nice and friendly to Chris but is laid back and doesn’t seem quite as pushy. There’s a permanent smize on her face that didn’t quite seem to reach her eyes. I got the feeling that while Dean is yakking away she was observing Chris very carefully while trying to give off the appearance of not paying him attention. I didn’t have a strong or immediate reaction to her as I did with Dean but I found myself watching her closely whenever she was onscreen.

The Armitage property is large and the family has two Black employees a house servant, Georgina, and groundskeeper, Walter. Black people, (some, though not all) tend to acknowledge each other with a “hey” or head nod in passing. Especially, when you’re one of the few Black people in a predominantly White space. Yet, this doesn’t occur when Chris meets Walter or Georgina. I get that the Armitage family are their employers and they’re interacting with Chris who is the boyfriend of the bosses’ daughter. But their mannerisms are weird and their interactions with Chris are off. They smile and aren’t exactly mean to Chris but they lack the warmth that I generally feel when I meet most other Black people.(SEE SPOILER 2)

While having drinks on the patio, Missy finally pipes up but when she does it is to comment on Chris being a smoker who is dating her daughter. Hearing this, Dean mentions that Missy is a gifted psychotherapist who was able to help him quit smoking with one session of hypnosis. I think smoking is gross and wouldn’t date a smoker. But, I also wouldn’t be overly familiar to the point of demanding that someone I just met stop smoking or allow me to root around in their psyche.

The Armitage’s “we’re cool non-racist people” demeanor begins to quickly shift into having no respect for Chris’ boundaries. Missy takes the hint and doesn’t insist on pushing Chris to try hypnosis. Instead, she switches gears by asking about his family and background which is understandable when meeting someone’s partner for the first time.

While asking him questions Missy stirs a cup of tea. I’m a regular tea drinker but the sound of the spoon knocking and scraping the insides of the cup seemed loud and unsettling. Chris obligingly gives an overview of his parents. But, Missy landed on my detestable list with Dean when she started prying into the details of childhood trauma he experienced. It felt like she had no regard for his boundaries or feelings. She was just intent on getting answers to her questions all while constantly smizing and stirring that damn cup of tea.

There was something else that turned me off about the mom. While Missy was interrogating Chris, Georgina was pouring a glass of iced tea. She seemed to get distracted and overpoured the glass, spilling some of it on the table which disrupted the conversation. Missy’s ever-present smile immediately fell away and she became angry with Georgina over a simple accident. In her fit of anger, Missy commanded Georgina to go take a nap as though she were a child. (SEE SPOILER 3)

Eventually, Rose’s brother, Jeremey, shows up and the weirdo factor goes through the roof. He is also nice and welcoming for about five seconds before taking a drastic turn. The family sits around the dinner table making polite conversation and Jeremy shares some stories about Rose. Somehow, he gets around to talking about Chris’ genetic makeup and more exercise making it possible for him to be a “beast”. The word is a loaded term with plenty of historical meaning when applied to Black people.

Jeremy further adds insult to injury by trying to engage Chris in play wrestling. These are two grown men in a house, so understandably, Chris brushes him off. Yet, Jeremy quickly and inexplicably becomes enraged. His mask of friendliness slips away along with his sense of control of Chris and the situation. The other Armitages intervene and calm things down, making excuses for Jeremy’s behavior.

It turns out that there happens to be an annual garden party type event during the same weekend that Rose has brought Chris home to meet the family. If Dean was annoying and Jeremy unstable, the partygoers are just blatantly bizarre. The garden party is a smorgasbord of microaggressions and inappropriate comments. People squeeze Chris’ arm and fawn over his physical appearance. A woman goes so far as to ask Rose suggestively if the rumors are true and “it’s better”. A couple notes that while fair skin has been the thing for quite some time Black is the new Black. There’s just a whole bunch of “wait a minute what did you just say moments.”

It would have been cliche for a movie of this nature to be set in a Southern neighborhood. Typically, the term a “veneer of genteel” is used when discussing people from the South who present a front of “Southern hospitality” while being passive-aggressive. It’s therefore pretty ironic that the term is an incredibly fitting description of people who live in the Northeast, are liberal, and consider themselves progressive. What makes Get Out unique is that Peele uses everyday situations in unexpected ways. And through that creative lens, he shows that ignorance and bigotry is a matter of mindset rather than geography or political party affiliation.

There’s an ongoing theme here about how Black men navigate the world compared to White people. We see several environments and situations where the White characters are at ease. While the Black characters are on edge (as most Black people would be). For example, the suburban neighborhood at the start of the film, the conversation with the police officer, the garden party at Rose’s family home, etc. Get Out might allow people to reassess their views if they’re willing to try seeing social situations through someone else’s eyes.

I found the first half of the film far more engrossing than the events after the big reveal. Thrillers and horror movies are more terrifying when the villains and events are realistic as opposed to some imaginary monster. The first half of Get Out moves along at a steady pace and is mundane on the surface but there are these little unexpected moments that catch you off guard. You get used to the flow of things seeming normal and then going off-kilter which causes a sense of discomfort that makes you sit up and pay attention.

I didn’t see Get Out in theaters but instead watched it a few years after its release. By that time I’d seen gifs of the character Georgina smiling with tears streaming down her face while repeating, “No, No, No.” I’d also heard references to the “sunken place” in situations where a Black person is deemed to have lost their sense of self or Blackness. Having finally seen Get Out it all made sense but in case you haven’t seen the movie I won’t spoil it for you. Instead, I’ll end the regular review and discussion here and highly recommend that you check it out for yourself.

Scroll down below to the spoiler section for additional commentary if you have already seen the movie. And as always, I’d love to know what you think so leave a comment.

*Spoilers*

I thought that Get Out was fairly perfect up until the point when it’s revealed that Rose is in on the plot and they restrain Chris. Rose being a co-conspirator was a great plot twist. It made me think back and gave new meaning to the instances in the movie where her reaction seemed out of step with what I expected.

The theory of these upper-middle-class White people using the bodies of Black people for their physical abilities and strength was profound when viewed in the context of history. And the seemingly mundane sound of a teacup being stirred irritated me until it was revealed as being a tool of hypnosis. I would try to pay attention to what was being said in conversation only to find myself distracted and annoyed by this loud stirring. That little detail was an absolute work of genius.

But, I thought the whole brain transplant thing was corny and it made the end of the movie a bit of a let down for me. The movie had been so sharp and precise throughout without being over the top or campy. So when it got to the final act and Chris had to escape to avoid the loss of his brain…I was done. The spell that had been cast in the first two-thirds of the movie was broken. Get Out is a great movie but it could have been flawless with some explanation other than a brain transplant.

It did redeem itself to some degree in the last few minutes when Rose and Chris are just about the last two people standing and a police car pulls up. Rose was injured and immediately started lying to save herself. I couldn’t help but think that the situation looked terrible for Chris. I was pretty certain the police officer would see Rose, believe her side of the story, and immediately kill Chris. If Chris was arrested, he would have a hard time explaining all the members of a wealthy White family dying at his hands on the very weekend he meets them for the first time. And the people who attended the party would likely provide a cover story for the Armitages painting Chris as a cold-blooded opportunistic murderer.

Spoiler 1

*I don’t have first-hand experience with the situation so police officers might request to see the IDs of everyone involved in an accident. It’s also possible that it’s not standard procedure and the officer was just being extra. Either way, he wasn’t overly hostile to Chris or Rose so her reaction seemed a bit unnecessary. At first, I thought she was defending Chris but I don’t think that was the case given her approach to racial tension throughout the rest of the movie. It’s more likely that she didn’t want Chris to hand over his ID to the police officer as he might remember Chris and the woman he was with at the scene of the accident if his planned disappearance was later publicized.

Spoiler 2

Georgiana smiles and cries at the same time while speaking to Chris and repeatedly uttering the phrase “No”. As I mentioned, her demeanor towards Chris as one of the few other Black people is incredibly strange. But, it makes sense when she is later revealed to be one of the Armitages’ victims, used as a vessel for Dean’s mother.

Like the Armitage family, Georgina’s smile doesn’t seem genuine and is also a mask. But, as their circumstances differ, so do the true feelings behind the facade. When Georgina’s mask slips it reveals sadness in the form of tears rather than the anger displayed by the Armitages. Overfilling the cups and crying while repeating the word “No” might have been the real Georgina trying to save or warn Chris from danger.

Also, Walter running at Chris full speed only to turn at the last minute might have been the two versions of Walter fighting for control of his body.

Spoiler 3

I think that Missy was trying to hypnotize Chris while they were talking on the patio. Hence the pronounced stirring of the teacup. Georgina might have been briefly hypnotized as well which led to her literally and figuratively spilling the tea. I think it’s telling that she was pouring iced rather than hot tea so there was no chance of anyone being injured by the mistake. Yet, Missy pretty much tries to take her head off. She was probably not upset about the spill but rather that the concentration needed to properly hypnotize Chris was interrupted.

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