“You know, I would have voted for Obama for a third time if I could’ve.” This line echoes from Bradley Whitford’s established Caucasian patriarch to our main dude, Chris — oh, did I mention Chris is black? That fact is important, because first-time filmmaker Jordan Peele (of Key & Peele fame) gives us a slow-burning thriller, lined with razor-sharp satire on race relations today.
The premise is simple and takes its cues from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Chris, an young and accomplished African-American photographer, has been dating Rose Armitage, who is anything but African-American. The time that all couples fear has finally come — Rose and Chris are taking a trip to her family’s estate so he can meet her folks for the first time. Shortly before they leave, Chris expresses concern that Rose hasn’t told them that he’s black. Rose laughs and says that her dad loves Obama — this is the first cringeworthy yet hilarious comment that probably actually happens in inter-racial dating today. From there, the suspense begins to boil, like a tea pot left too long on the burner. Let’s just say that the basement is mysteriously locked when they arrive (and the characters even fucking acknowledge it — I love self-referencial moments!) It’s so expertly done that I wouldn’t dare spoil it
The whole thing wouldn’t work without a roster of excellent and committed actors. Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris gives us an incredibly likable protagonist, who understands modern racism but does not consider himself a victim. Kaluuya runs the whole gamut of emotions, and a secret from his childhood sparks a touching and bizarre scene. Bradley Whitford and Cat Keener’s Dean and Missy, Rose’s white-ass rich parents, are walking stereotypes, but it’s almost as if they’re self aware. Whitford especially loves to deliver the sugar-sweet dialogue, and his snide charm very much suits his character. I watch Girls, but I did not expect Allison Williams to be able to handle a role as demanding as Rose. Smiling through her teeth and charming to death, to discuss her performance more would require spoilers, but let’s just say this ain’t Marnie. Special kudos to all of the actors/actresses in supporting roles — they had to go all in to make the plot cruise along. The MVP, however, goes to Chris’s best friend, Rod (hilariously played by Lil Rel Howery). Rod is a TSA agent, and he won’t let you forget it. He delivers much of that Key & Peele charm, and it’s laugh out loud funny.
PARANOIA — this movie inspires that shitty yet fun feeling in your gut. The imagery is surreal (no doubt Peele has seen a few Kubrick movies in his day). It was noticeably well-shot too, with constant symmetry in its visuals. Technically, it’s incredibly well-paced and doles out its plot points and twists at the perfect times. Peels himself admitted that comedy and horror are similar in that “so much of it is pacing, so much of it reveals.” There are horror tropes, but Peele is acutely aware of them and does not let the movie get bogged down in stereotypes. Oh, it’s also FUNNY AS FUCK. I wasn’t sure how my brain would accept jokes during the creepiness, but it was a low-key comedy amidst its horrors. If this is where Peele begins, I’m fucking pumped to see where his career goes.
Should you see it? Yeah, dude. GET OUT and go see it (sorry, had to do it). This flick fucks.
[all images from Universal Pictures]