This smart movie sold more tickets than any other in its opening last weekend.
“Get Out” starts as a comedy of manners in the style of Tartuffe or Oscar Wilde. A young woman takes her boyfriend home to meet her parents. When he asks whether she has told them he is black, she explains that there will be no problem because, “They’re not racists!”
In fact, she says, her father would have voted for Obama a third time if he’d had the opportunity.
When the pair arrive at the sumptuous suburban home, the parents don’t miss a beat. The father gives the boyfriend, Chris, a bro hug and calls him, “My man!”
Later the dad shares that he would have voted for Obama a third time if he’d had the opportunity. He makes a point of showing Chris a photo of his relative who lost in a track heat to Jesse Owens. Then the dad asks daughter and boyfriend how long “this thang” (their relationship) has been going on.
Over dinner, the girl’s brother asks Chris, “What’s your sport?” and then says, “With your frame and genetic makeup … you’d be a fucking beast!”
At a reception the next day, an older woman introduces Chris to her husband, a former golfer. The man doesn’t play golf any longer, he says, “But I do love Tiger.”
Ah, the discreet charm of the white upper class! Its members’ efforts to demonstrate that they are not bigoted expose just how race-obsessed they truly are.
Chris’ friend Rod, who works in airport security (“I’m with the TS-fucking-A!”), has warned against the weekend trip. “Don’t go to a white-girl parent home!” he cautions.
Rod has a point. Chris is a good sport about the awkwardness of his girlfriend’s relatives and friends, but over time he cannot help but notice strange things.
The family’s two servants, both African American, seem possibly hostile toward Chris and then just weird. A black guest at the family party seems disconnected as well.
And then the girlfriend’s mother offers to hypnotize Chris to help him quit smoking.
Over time, the oddities turn the movie into a horror show. (Comedy-horror is an American genre that dates to the 1920s and whose most recent entrant before “Get Out” was the chick version of “Ghostbusters.”)
In “Get Out,” white hostility devolves into the worst-case scenario. Because it’s a comedy, you don’t have to get too wigged out by the horror aspect, which doesn’t mean it isn’t pretty darn creepy. And you can laugh at the end.
The movie is the first for Jordan Peele, he of the Key and Peele comedy team that built a following over four years on Comedy Central. As with the K&P skits, the humor here is offered with a light touch and without direct malice, and the movie is nicely paced. May this be the first of many.