Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones,
Director: Jordan Peele
This film is incredible.
I’m guessing by now that most of you will have already seen this, but if you haven’t, you really should.
This film has become quite famous for being a huge box office success, breaking records and surprising people who feel that movies with African American protagonists often don’t do well in foreign markets or that films that have no real sequel or franchise potential are not viable in the current market.
It’s the story of a young black photographer who is nervous about going to meet his girlfriends parents because they’re wealthy and white. She reassures him that everything will be fine, but when they arrive, there’s something very off about the family. The black “help” behave very strangely, like overly happy zombies, and the family friends seem to be trying to hard to show how not racist they are, both of which are really creepy. Something feels very wrong, especially after his girlfriends mother forcibly hypnotises him saying she did it to help him quit smoking, but is that really all there was to it? What’s really going on?
It’s an interesting premise, and I have to admit that when I first saw the trailer for the film, I thought it was a joke. Perhaps that’s because the writer and director of the film is Jordan Peele, half of the comedy duo of TV show Key & Peele. I always felt that there was a lot of dark comedy in Key & Peele, and because of that, it makes sense to me that Jordan Peele has branched out into directing and writing scary films.
It’s also really refreshing to see a film that’s about a black protagonist, where the antagonists are white. It feels really fresh and honest, and this film is often very incisive and funny too. (If you’re interested in how black people have been portrayed in cinema historically, I Am Not Your Negro makes some really good points, which I won’t enumerate here).
Personally, what really blew me away in this film was the performances. And not just the main characters, but the smaller characters too. Everyone feels quite well rounded, natural and real, which is really important in a film where the premise involves hypnosis as a plot point, since it could all end up feeling rather silly if not handled well. Some scenes, where characters eyes say one thing while their lips say another are really striking, a black housekeeper crying desperately whilst smiling and saying everything is fine, a daughters voice expressing distress whilst her face tells us nothing. It’s subtle, but absolutely amazing.
There are also some funny small moments in this film, a white girl listening to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack and drinking milk to show that she’s about as white as you can get underneath. The best friend who tries to tell his friend what’s happening, and tries to tell the police, which skewers our own disbelief at such a broad plot line. It’s really clever, and quite a masterful film.
It’s just a really solid, entertaining and good film, which is so wonderful when there’s so many films out there that are cookie cutter, that rule follow or that are lazy. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a film quite so much in a long time.
See It If: it’s a darkly funny, entrancing horror thriller, beautifully made and makes some interesting points about society, without being at all preachy. Highly recommended.