Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – 2017 Version

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Title: Get Out

Rating: 5 Stars

This is a film by Jordan Peele, of Key and Peele fame. He wrote and directed it.

The plot is that a young white woman (Alison) brings her black boyfriend (Chris) home for a visit. The parents are what you’d classically picture as a typical wealthy, liberal, privileged, white couple. They welcome Chris openly into their home and in various awkward ways, try to make him feel comfortable.

And things begin to get weird. First of all, Chris is trying to quit smoking. Alison’s mom (Missy) is a psychiatrist that also performs hypnotherapy. The family somewhat forcefully tries to encourage him to go under hypnosis to curb that habit. He firmly refuses and the family backs off. Later, he encounters Missy alone in her study and they have a conversation. It’s not clear to him, but during that conversation Missy might have successfully hypnotized him.

Another major thing that is seemingly out of place are the very few black people that are around the house. The groundskeeper (Walter) and housekeeper (Georgina) just act strange. They seem to be nearly robotic, reminiscent of the Stepford wives.

The weekend that Alison brings Chris up happens to be some kind of reunion with a bunch of other rich white people.

From there, things begin to get stranger and stranger.

Since the movie just came out, I don’t want to throw down any spoilers on the very off-hand chance that someone actually reads this.

It’s blatantly obvious that this film has many racial overtones. There is the casual racism that Chris experiences from ‘good-hearted’ white people that I’m assuming that black people probably experience every day. There are people calling him ‘my man’. There are people telling him that they know Tiger Woods. There are people assuming that he must be athletically gifted. There are people reassuring him that they would have voted for Obama a third time if they could.

Clearly these are all white people that are not looking at Chris as a human being but as a black man and nearly all of the ways that they interact with him are on that basis.

The film makes fun of code switching. Chris attempts to engage with the few other black characters with awkward, unpredictably hilarious results. His confusion at his inability to connect with his cohort is manifest.

Without going into too many details, cultural appropriation is an overarching major theme. What does it mean to be a black man living in a white world that is avariciously trying to usurp your role in it? When it is trying to remove the blackness from your being?

Even fairly minor throwaway scenes have racial significance. Nearly at the end of the movie, Chris has an encounter with law enforcement. Even though he is the protagonist of the film and is fighting for his life, the arrival of law enforcement does not fill him with hope of being saved but dread at what will become of him.  What must it feel like to know that the people that are supposed to protect and defend you might have no intent to do either?

I know that all of this sounds heavy-handed, but the genius of this film is its lightness. The fun that it has with the TSA is hilarious. It is a perfect combination of horror, comedy, and political consciousness.

This balance makes it one of the finest movies that I’ve seen in a while.

 

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