Friday, March 17, 2017

Get Out -- A Movie Review

Photo: from the movie's Wikipedia website

Get Out was a ballsy movie to make, considering our present climes. It's a horror movie with a good horror movie ending, but this is no horror movie. It's also a comedy with a message about racism that doesn't hit you over the head, or preach at you. This makes it even more effective. This movie tries to do for racism what Rosemary's Baby and Stepford Wives did for sexism, and it largely succeeds because Jordan Peele, Get Out's producer/director, was aware of those two movies. There's a bit of Kubrick's (and not King's) The Shining in there at the end, too, but luckily that guy doesn't end up like Scatman Crothers did.

I saw this with my better half, and we're both white. (I'm as boring, suburban white as Wonder Bread, but not as fluffy or as wholesome.) We sat next to a bi-racial couple, one white and one black, which is pretty rare for my suburban-hell neck of the woods. (See the movie juxtaposition I made there?) Normally this would not be relevant, but, unfortunately, for this review, and for this movie, it is. Just a sign o' the times.

A quick review of the movie: After a quick prologue of a young black man getting kidnapped, another young black man (the main character) and his pretty white girlfriend are off to a rural home to introduce him to her family. She hasn't told them he's black, by the way, which you know is not going to turn out well.

So the racial theme comes and it's played for laughs. This is ingenious, and if you think Peele is only playing it for laughs, then you don't know what kind of serious cultural change laughs can do. Like, All in the Family and Richard Pryor changed some views in the 70s and 80s. The point works because it's played funny. And in the funny, we feel the tension and disquiet, and realize it's not funny. This is a good movie for a collegiate class about film, comedy and horror. I'm going to let the following critic of The Guardian tell it, because I'm just fumbling here:

Lanre Bakare of The Guardian commented on this, saying, "The villains here aren't southern rednecks or neo-Nazi skinheads, or the so-called 'alt-right'. They're middle-class white liberals. The kind of people who read this website. The kind of people who shop at Trader Joe's, donate to the ACLU and would have voted for Obama a third time if they could. Good people. Nice people. Your parents, probably. The thing Get Out does so well – and the thing that will rankle with some viewers – is to show how, however unintentionally, these same people can make life so hard and uncomfortable for black people. It exposes a liberal ignorance and hubris that has been allowed to fester. It's an attitude, an arrogance which in the film leads to a horrific final solution, but in reality leads to a complacency that is just as dangerous."

In other words, the target audience was, in some ways, people like me, who like to think they're racially aware, and who like to think they're helping the cause, in whatever way they can. Now, I'm not liberal like this passage, thank God, but I do donate to the ACLU and I would've voted for Obama again. I don't shop at Trader Joe's. (In fact, I don't do the food shopping at all, because I'd buy just cereal, bananas, apples, blueberries, and green olives.) But it's also true that I don't know how to relate to someone who's a victim of racism. For example, I realized in my last movie review that I didn't even see why Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness was racist itself (an irony, since it effectively shows how racism is a [see title]) until I read Chinua Achebe's speech about it. (Achebe was kinda right, kinda not, but more right than not. And, by the way, who am I to speak about racism?)

This is the point of the movie, which is hidden in trappings of comedy and horror. I can speak of racism only in the sense that I've seen it; I've written and spoken against it; I don't know what the hell it's all about; I don't know why so many people deny it exists; I don't get why people don't understand why African-Americans and other minorities are angry; I don't get why Samuel L. Jackson says Daniel Kaluuya, the main actor, isn't "black enough," and I don't get why I don't get that, because I get what such people think it means; and I also realize that I don't know enough about it to criticize Samuel L. Jackson, which I also realize isn't a smart thing to do to begin with, about anything at all, because he's scary. I used to think that racists only lived in the South, in a Mississippi Burning kind of way, but now I see that it's everywhere, including in the recent court decision about how Texas unconstitutionally re-districted itself to disillusion minority voters; about how voting ID laws in many states--including those as far north as PA and North Carolina--were purposely passed by Republicans to make it harder for the poor (reads: Democrat) to vote. I see that racism exists, or used to, in zoning laws, for God's sake, around here.

And in truth, Get Out is probably a more realistic depiction of racism than Mississippi Burning ever was. Maybe. Who am I to say?

This movie review of Get Out concludes tomorrow...

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