Tuesday 18 April 2017

We Don't Go Back #44a: Get Out (2017)

This is the first post I wrote about Get Out. In this post, I give a quick review of it, spoiler free. For the (spoilertastic) analysis, go here

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is in love with Rose (Alison Williams). Chris is black, Rose is white. Rose takes him to see her affluent parents (Bradley Whitford and indie film queen Catherine Keener) out in the suburbs. Which is sort of the plot of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, except it's really not.
It's horrible, really cringey: Rose's dad Dean calls Chris "my man" and says he'd vote for Obama a third time if he could, and tells an anecdote about how his grandad was beaten to selection in the 1936 Olympics by Jesse Owens, and then there's this big party and people are fawning over Chris in a really weird, objectifying sort of way, and there are black people who behave... strangely.

What is in store for Chris? I can't say, of course I can't, but there's something of the pagan village conspiracy at play, something more pagan than it might seem – there's one scene, just a few seconds long, at the start of the third act, that tips the film over the edge into full folk horror in terms of tropes, but the true folk horror lies in its uniquely American idiom.
American racial politics are a mess (and so are British ones, but different things are wrong in different ways), and there's a sense that everyone knows that, and the genius of Get Out is to show you Chris's experience of life without telling you in words. So before the credits, you have this scene where there's a black guy, genuinely terrified because he's lost in an affluent neighbourhood, a smart inversion, but all the more true because this man's fears are of different things to, say, a white person in a "bad" neighbourhood. Chris has these same fears. He gets asked for his driving licence by a cop, even though he wasn't even driving, and he sighs and moves to hand it over.

And there's a lot of these moments where you see him sigh and just let it run off his back like water over the proverbial duck, and you realise that he's had to put up with this shit a million times before, these little slights that just come from ignorance and unrecognised prejudice, but he makes a conscious decision to let it slide, until the line between socially awkward and creepy as hell has been crossed too many times for it to be something he can take. By then, it's too late.

But then it always was.

The film works because some of that social awkwardness has been experienced by real people; when Chris is asked what his parents do by people who don't realise that if you come from a certain place there are questions people don't ask, I cringed all the more because that's happened to me. Of course, though, for much of the film the discomfort (for someone who isn't black and from a "difficult" background) comes from realising that you might have done that to someone like Chris, that you might have objectified someone like that. Or made assumptions. Or assumed kinship. Or tried to make a connection in an insulting, patronising way. I suppose the film stands as a corrective. It says, shut up, shut up and listen.
Real human connections and fake ones are contrasted – the genuine, honest connection that Chris has with his mate Rod (LilRel Howery, supplier of most of the film's laughs) is put to the test and found to be true and solid. In one scene, a character accuses Rod of lusting after Rose, and Rod is outraged. Chris is his friend, his boy. The bond of friendship transcends the expectations of community. The apparently domesticated black people Chris meets have had, unwillingly, to pay a terrible price in order to "fit in". And the metaphor there is – argh. I can't say. There's a metaphor, OK.

Get Out is the sort of film where things dawn on you just a little bit before they're spelled out on the screen, but still too late, which makes it Good Horror. It's well paced and has some really effective jumps and genuinely creepy bits. It's funny, too, without ever ceasing to have this real anger at its core. By the end of the film, you find yourself expecting certain results from events, and Get Out excels in both fulfilling those expectations and thwarting them just enough that you don't know right up until the final shot how it's going to turn out.

Go see it. See it. It is that good.