Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams) have been dating for five months and it’s time to meet her parents. Chris is a photographer and dark-skinned black man and Allison is pretty, white, and progressive. He is soft-spoken and conflict-averse; she is cool and educated. Yes, these are details, but they all count for something in Get Out, an expertly layered debut effort from Jordan Peele.
Chris worries that Rose’s parents don’t know he is black but she assures him they are totally cool and armed with a post-racial sensibility that many affluent white people think they have. Heck, Rose’s dad would have voted for Obama a third time if he could have! Chris is nervous but placated by Rose’s reassurance. After all, she is the ideal image of safety, security, and normalcy. There is no reason Chris would doubt her white allyship and is certainly not thinking seriously about weaponized white liberalism – not yet anyway.
Rose’s parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), are kind but welcome Chris a bit too comfortably. Chris knows something is off from the start but can’t possibly differentiate between actual danger and the more routine horrors of everyday life as a black man. Peele sets the tone immediately and never relents. Rose’s frat-boy from hell brother (with an interest in lacrosse and MMA, naturally) is clearly a little unhinged, but the family’s motivations, and the degree to which Chris should be worried, remain hazy. The message, however, is clear: being black in America comes with its own set of horrors, including self-congratulating white liberalism.
If Rose’s immediate family is a confounding, their hired help is downright distressing. The groundskeeper and housekeeper are the only other black people on the property, and might as well be the only black people on the planet as far as this weekend is concerned. As Chris finds out, they operate more like robots than humans. All of this combined with a strong sense of otherness leaves Chris in the lurch. Is he being paranoid or over-sensitive? Are these white people actually just well-meaning and awkward or is something more sinister at play? It’s tough to tell and that’s the whole point.
Even as the final scenes unfold in the mold of a more traditional thriller, the subtext throughout the film is positively lethal. The sheer volume of social commentary on race relations packed into this film is astonishing; it’s something akin to a rhyme and metaphor-dense rap verse that requires repeated listens. Jordan Peele has made a big-idea horror flick that may be the most important movie of the year and will certainly go down as the most fearless. This film is some kind of miracle.