Meet the Parents
Warning: This review discusses elements of the plot including the ending. You may want to watch a pirated copy of this title at your girlfriend’s parents’ house before reading.
African Americans have always known that white power and the historic racism that comes as standard, will always adapt in order to maintain its privilege. Ava DuVernay’s recent documentary, 13th, suggested that mass incarceration in the US criminal justice system was slavery remodelled. And in an altogether more light-hearted way, Jordan Peele’s satirical creep show, Get Out, toys with the same notion of slave owner descendants employing new strategies to stay on top.
If that weren’t enough, this low-budget gem also finds time to comment on how inverted racism works on a rhetorical level – namely praising individuals because of their imagined superior racial attributes rather than their character, betraying a consciousness conditioned by racial difference. When Daniel Kaluuya’s introduced to his rich white girlfriend’s Dad – a squeeze who uses Bing and listens to Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, a sign she was never to be trusted, he’s treated to a history lesson on how grandpa was beaten by Jesse Owens at the Nazi Olympics, a win that made a mockery of Hitler’s race theories. Obama was a best President in Dad’s lifetime and he’d have voted for again, had the constitution allowed it. Try hard platitudes? Not in this movie.
What could and perhaps would normally be white liberal virtue signalling, turns out to be the tip of the iceberg, of the kind purpose built by wealthy lunatics. Peele’s movie takes a simple setup – nervous black boyfriend meeting rich white girlfriend’s brood and turns it into one of the most original and surprising horror movies of recent years.
Kaluuya’s weekend from hell takes in such unusual elements as impromptu night time hypnotism, mannered black servants, sincere as Stepford Wives, who speak like upper class white folks, and rich friends of the family who congregate in the house for drinks but fall silent when he leaves the room. It is, in short, a great exercise in sustained tension and menace rooted in social discomfort.
It’s unfortunate then, that once the family’s diabolical scheme is revealed, Peele’s movie reverts to the cathartic but well-trod third act escape and murder your captors climax, craved by the audience, but surely not needed when the rest of the movie worked so hard to confound expectations.
Producer Jason Blum knows his genre crowd and what sandpapers their dick, and those wanting the release that comes with recriminating violence will be satisfied. But with a few tweaks, namely Kaluuya’s boyfriend being, say a trainee surgeon rather than a photographer, it’s not hard to imagine an ending more in keeping with the film’s outrageous brain transplant premise, namely the hideous Armitage clan being transposed into woodland deer and set loose to be hunted by their rich peers; a conclusion that wouldn’t have been too far-fetched given Peele’s comic sensibility.
Instead, Peele nearly unbalances the movie entirely by maintaining the threating tone while peppering the story with LilRey Howery’s OTT comic airport cop. The film just about gets away with having Howery and Kaluuya’s besieged boyfriend in the same movie, but it’s a close run thing. Closer than you’ll ever want to get to your new partner’s family after 104 minutes of Get Out’s absurdist thrills.