REVIEW: Get Out

8 05 2017

“I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this […] through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away,” then-President Barack Obama stated upon the occasion of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the murder of Trayvon Martin. “There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me.”

The terror that white people feel when a black man enters a space they historically dominate has gotten a surge of attention in recent years. (Some might say it’s the underlying narrative of the 2016 presidential election.) This tension appears most in the police shootings of unarmed black men, though it also appears in dialogues surrounding everything from cultural appropriation to #OscarsSoWhite. The issues, of course, are nothing new. The means for traditionally underrepresented voices to make their opinions heard, however, are.

With his feature debut “Get Out,” writer/director Jordan Peele finds yet another method of expression: the thriller genre. From its ominous opening scene in which a black man ambles uneasily through a Stepfordian suburb, the film engrosses us in the acute and hyperaware perspective of a minority navigating a predominantly white culture. That also requires shining a light on the dark flip side of the equation that helps construct blackness – white myopia or blindness.

As Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) prepares to meet the parents of his white girlfriend Rose (a perfectly cast Allison Williams), we become painfully aware of how the vast gulf of racial privilege affects their read on certain situations. She cannot understand why Chris simply gives his license to an officer calmly by the side of the road when it’s clear he did nothing wrong. She has a post-racial mindset that makes her think it’s unnecessary to specify Chris’ race before arriving. Race is something Rose can forget about. It’s not that easy for him.

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REVIEW: Keanu

26 04 2016

SXSW Film Festival

The hype surrounding the film festival environment leads even seasoned veterans like myself into making questionable life decisions. On my second day at SXSW, I hustled to the Austin Convention Center at 8:30 A.M. to get a prime seat for a talk with comedy qweens Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. That very same evening, after a full day of interviews and screenings, I decided it would be a great idea to go see the work-in-progress screening of “Keanu,” starring the comedy team Key & Peele. Who cares that the show was at 12:30 A.M. and, because of the daylight savings time change, would not let out until 3:30 A.M.? Minor details.

Was I in the best state to watch a film? Gosh no. But if “Keanu” could keep me (mostly) awake and (mostly) entertained, then it ought to pack a real wallop for anyone viewing under normal conditions.

The film seems reverse engineered from all the things people love to share on my Facebook news feed: cat memes, irreverent ’90s action film-style violence and the sketch comedy of Key & Peele. “Keanu” could not tee up its stars for more success, plunging their thinking man’s wit into the absurd world of the Los Angeles criminal underground once their pet cat gets kidnapped. Yep, you read that correctly. (To be fair, the cat did escape from a drug lord.)

After pushing buttons and boundaries with their provocative Comedy Central show, Key & Peele’s first foray onto the silver screen resembles 2010’s “Date Night” more than anything else. Remember that movie? With Steve Carell and Tina Fey, who were still involved in their hit NBC sitcoms? You might not because it was sub-par material, but you might have some faint recollection because those two stars brought their A-game and elevated the script to decent effect.

“Keanu” does the same for Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele. The script (co-written by Peele with Alex Rubens) has its fair share of great comedic set pieces and hilarious one-liners. It stops short, however, of the depth of satire Key & Peele normally utilize to probe questions of race, gender and class. That slight disappointment mostly comes afterward, though. In the moment, it is mostly just amusing and ridiculous to watch a cat meme come to life as a full-length feature. B2halfstars