When Allison Williams appears in “Get Out,” your heart is immediately in your throat.
Her Type-A character in this film, Rose Armitage, has been dating her photographer boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) for a couple months and we see them first as Chris packs his bag for a weekend visit with Rose’s parents. He has just one important question before they hop in the car: “Do they know I’m black?”
Rose says they don’t and that it would never matter anyway, using the 2017 version of “I have lots of black friends” to explain her parents’ enlightened outlook: “They would have voted for Obama a third time if they could have.”
When the besotted pair arrive upstate, the Armitages are as promised — Dean (Bradley Whitford) is an affable neurosurgeon and Missy (Catherine Keener) is a psychiatrist who helpfully offers to hypnotize Chris to fix his smoking addiction. Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) is a more outwardly troubled example of Southern gothic, always wielding an object he makes horrifying, whether a rocks glass, lacrosse stick or ukulele.
Things get eyebrow raising when we meet the Armitages’ household staff. They are so rigidly servile that they resemble antebellum cyborgs, full of industry and doll-like forced smiles. Perhaps because he is the only other African-American male in the vicinity, Chris attempts to codeswitch when he chats with the butler, to learn how the man really feels about his position. It does not go well. Chris, unsettled, reports to Rose, “It’s not what he says, it’s how he says it.”
Kaluuya makes excellent use of his expressive eyes and lays a variety of sidelong glances at his surroundings, registering everything from shade to distaste to creeping terror. His only outlet is phone calls with his TSA agent buddy Rod (an uproarious Lil Rel Howery), who tells Chris straightaway that the visit to Rose’s parents will lead inevitably to enslavement in a sex cult.
In his first directorial effort, Jordan Peele is excellent at ratcheting tension. Peele is also razor sharp in the small details, as when he includes a television commercial for the United Negro College Fund and makes a great double entendre on their slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Watch the ‘Get Out’ trailer below:
‘Get Out’ is showing at the Sonoma 9 Cinemas. Rated R. Running time 1:43. Visit cinemawest.com.