Do they know I'm black?

Do they know I’m black?

 

For a second or two, there as talk that America was a society that was “post-racial”. Idealistic thoughts of colour-blindess were rising like river rapids, and it was suggested that one of the historically hateful society had turned a corner.

If they did turn a corner though, that corner lead to a dead-end. Racism wasn’t abolished, it was merely segregated. It might not have been present at the water fountain, but could be counted on to show up at the dinner table.

One word was censored, but whole sentences kept being spoken. The only question was over who was still bold enough to speak such sentences…under what circumstances would they express their true feelings…and what they hoped to gain by expressing such thoughts aloud.

GET OUT is the story of Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya). A gifted photographer living in a cosmopolitan city, Chris begins the film getting ready for a weekend away to the homestead of his girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams).

There’s just one small problem: Rose hasn’t told her parents that she is dating a man of colour.

Chris believes it might be a thing; Rose disagrees. Phone calls to Chris’ best friend Rod (LilRel Howery) re-enforce Chris’ suspicions. Likewise an encounter with a state trooper after a collision with a deer on the drive in. Rose remains optimistic, but Chris already sees the signs: this trio to visit Ma and Pa Armitage will have racial undertones.

As the young couple arrives, Rose’s parents set out the welcome mat. Her father, Dean (Bradley Whitford) tries to act post-racial (He’d have voted Obama a third term if he could). He is warm, only mildly inappropriate, and certainly likes the cut of Chris’ jib. Rose’s mother, Missy (Catherine Keener), is a tougher nut to crack. She’s a psychologist, and as such, keeps things very close to the vest. She seems empathetic and self-aware…but how much of that is a front designed to get people to open-up?

In the background, the Armitage family have two domestic employees – both people of colour. There’s a maid taking care of the inside of the house and a groundskeeper tending to the expansive property. Both seem to only be half-present…at best.

During his first night, Chris slips outside to have a cigarette, and upon his re-entry into the house, Missy asks him to sit and talk with her. She probes him about his childhood, his family life, his habits, and his very being. She guises it as an attempt to help Chris stop smoking…but somehow, it seems like much more.

The next morning, the extended family descends upon the homestead and a massive party takes place. But who the hell are all of these white folk? Why are they all so strangely inappropriate? And why are they all so fascinated with Chris?

 

GO

 

GET OUT begins passively enough. The ride in is only slightly startling. Comments are only slightly inappropriate. The first dinner together is only slightly awkward. At a glance, these moments seem like little to get worked-up over…but eventually we come to realize that they are, in fact, very much like the clean-cut guy at the end of the street who was always pleasant, quiet, and kept to himself.

In any old thriller, this is a classic set-up: everything seems normal until it’s not. However, GET OUT uses those curiosities and glimmers to its advantage when it takes the point of view that it does. It underlines the levels of racism that drift in and out of day-to-day life in modern society. Are the Armitage Family passive racists, or violent racists…and just how much no man’s land exists between the two?

When GET OUT reveals its hand, the question is laid bare for all to consider: just what do white folks want from people of colour? For some it’s culture, for others it’s feats of athleticism, for others still it’s a romantic “type”. But if GET OUT has one theory above all, what white people want most is reassurance. They want recognition that they are not, in fact, racist, prejudice, or discriminatory in any way. They want to believe they are “post-racial”, “colour-blind”, or perhaps even “woke”. In reality, that’s just not true…and the sooner us white people come to grips with that, the better off we’ll all be.

We don’t deserve gold stars for empathy, and shouldn’t expect a pat on the back for acceptance.

There can be long stretches where things go well, and we white folk are aware of all privilege, but inevitably, we act, say, or do something stupid. To that end, there’s a trade: We don’t get skewered for the brief moments of inherent racism, and we likewise don’t get rewarded for rest of the time when we try to be better.

It’s what we want: more than being able to rap along with our favorite Jay Z tracks, but it just ain’t coming. We should all just move on.

So staring right into those wants and wishes is GET OUT; a film that takes those aspirations and spins it into something delightfully messed-up. The film isn’t freakishly original, but it is amazingly timed. Originally, it’s themes would have tapped on that nerve in America that believed we were all living harmoniously in Obama’s America. Now, it just underscores the dark reality that too many choose to ignore.

“That house at the end of the street? Yeah, I’ve heard stories, but it’s none of my business.”

“That millionaire I voted for? Yeah I hear he’s a misogynist, racist, but he says he’ll bring jobs back”

What we have is a story set in a picturesque, isolated community. Life here is remarkably pleasant and prosperous for those who would exploit unsuspecting members of the lower class, and society seems to be frozen in time. Specifically, frozen in an era when things were great. Thus, the events of this movie for the Armitage family is to get back to that era.

To make…well, you get my drift.

 

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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