Get Out: Thinking with Film

Teaser_poster_for_2017_film_Get_Out

The fact that I’m taking the time to write my a whole blog on this film instead of on paying gigs or my novel should say it all.

I’ve been interested in Jordan Peele’s debut since I first saw the spoiler-y ass trailer. I got myself to an early, packed-out screening (it doesn’t come out until late May in Australia). This may be the best horror film since The Badadook.

Since it deals with race and culture and erasure – subjects of discussion that have never, ever, ever gone badly on the internet thanks to nuance and calmness and understanding – it could have easily ended up a confused mess of “Creepy White People: The Movie”. Instead it’s a nuanced hyperblend of horror and comedy with an uncomfortably sharp message.

Being neither white, black or American it was interesting to watch this film as a passenger from a third person perspective. America is just as foreign to me as India or Brazil, and the issues of race and culture existing there so far removed from other countries and what I’m used to, it almost came across as a culture shock. “Are ultra-white, WASP Americans really like this? Is this really the sort of nonsense African Americans have to deal with? Can people really be so moronic and selfish in 2017?” These folks aren’t even your minority white, like Polish, Swedish, Italian, Greek (whether Mediterraneans are white depends on who you ask), whatever. These are McWhite, Anglo-Saxon, Get-Off-My-Property white to the core, and watching them stumble through the notions with Chris is both hilarious and painful.

From a writing level the script itself was spot-on (yes, here be spoilers). There’s so much to unpack in themes and foreshadowing. The deer’s head, the cop at the start, the dad’s mini-rant on animal “ethnic cleansing”, the grandpa’s running at night because he wanted to be like Carl Lewis, the symbolism of the silver spoon, the way the son would physically size Chris up. It’s incredible that Jordan Peele managed to pack in as much as he did, let alone compile a narrative, let alone one that’s dripping with utterly thrilling horror. And speaking of horror, the mix of it and humour was spot on. It’s not easy to craft an atmosphere taut as guitar strings and then break into jokes about white folks and sex slaves and drunk dogs, but it was done right. My audience was cracking up one minute and collectively holding their breath the next. It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions and very calculated plot points that build up to an crescendo that’s both super smart and horrifying. How many folks have laid on both operating tables because wealthy, privileged people are willing to utilize what is essentially modern day slavery.

There’s so much more food for thought in here. The token Japanese man at the party asking questions that were just as awkward and engaging in the bidding as well (with a “yellow” biding pad, too), how the single person at the party who spoke to Chris like a human being was blind and literally could not see his ethnicity. Jordan Peele knew exactly what he was doing, and shows with every prop. Oh, and we all cheered when the bitch got blown away by the end.

The film wasn’t perfect. The cinematography could have been much sharper and more deliberate with their shot placements and camera angles, and the humour felt forced at times. I don’t agree with everything the film was trying to say – being non-USian means I’m definitely going have my own stance on race and culture (I personally couldn’t care less if someone “saw” my ethnicity or not as long as they didn’t treat me differently). But like the best films: Jordan Peele isn’t trying to provide answers. He’s raising questions and portraying a subject matter through his world-view and his lens, and he does it brilliantly.

Get Out is very possibly the best film I’ve seen this year and is the best cinema experience I’ve had in a long, long time. I can’t wait for the endless barage of essays and articles this will inspire on race and America and I can’t wait to choke on the bile flooding in from the comments section.

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