This was perhaps the biggest surprise of 2017 for me, primarily because I wasn’t sure what to expect from first time director Jordan Peele. It may have been a horror but it wasn’t particularly scary in the traditional sense but more so for the commentary it makes about the African American culture. It was both gripping to watch and definitely worthy of all the recognition it has gotten through awards season. (original review)
Synopsis: Now that Chris and his girlfriend, Rose, have reached the meet-the-parents milestone of dating, she invites him for a weekend getaway upstate with Missy and Dean. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined. (Universal Pictures)
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, and Bradley Whitford
Writer: Jordan Peele
Director: Jordan Peele
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 103mins
The subject of race was going to come up in any film dealing with an interracial couple. It could have been pretentious about this but it didn’t make it the main focus of the film. The film served as more of a social commentary about the subtle racism that still exists today, playing with each group’s’ perceptions of the other to sometimes hilarious but mostly sad results. It wasn’t too difficult to accomplish, dealing with the awkwardness from either side trying to adapt to the other.
This film is about an interracial couple named Chris (Kaluuya) and Rose (Williams) who head to the suburbs for the weekend to meet Rose’s parents Dean (Whitford) and Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener). Thing just didn’t seem right to Chris from the start, from the behavior of Rose’s parents to their strange servants, Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson). They did not get better from there as Chris got introduced to the Armitage family history and lifestyle. Seeing the trailers, we already had an idea of where the plot was going but it was a little slow in getting there which would probably be the only complaint. There was still a great sense of tension from this but this got even better later on.
Thing ramped up once the Armitages had their annual get together where droves of affluent white families came to their estate (which was conveniently secluded). These “rich white people” were uncomfortably interested in Chris but this and seemingly seeing another servant for who Chris was familiar, a man named Logan (Lakeith Stanfield), was the final straw. Learning the truth about the Armitages and what they were really doing did not come as too much of a surprise but it still made it exciting to watch and ratcheting the stakes up even higher.
To break apart some of the film’s darker moments and to keep it interesting, it also offered a comic relief in the form of Chris’ TSA friend Rod (LilRel Howery). He was the other main black character that helped to put things into perspective, so to speak, providing a black counterpoint to what was happening and being the voice of the audience. Instead of being a gratuitous character, he actually played a role in the plot and often stealing scenes which was nice to see. He will change the way you look at the TSA from now on.
The acting here was excellent with Kaluuya being the standout. He was extremely likable and relatable as Chris, his awkwardness from being the only black man in a mostly white environment felt genuine. He was very compelling to watch and was easy to root for during the film’s darker second half. Williams was good as Rose, for the most part, serving as a support figure for Chris. She and Kaluuya were okay to watch together but their chemistry could have been better. Dean and Missy were the villains but they were not portrayed unfavorably (because of their different race). They were great at being both sinister and menacing while still likable.
Overall, this was an amazing horror film with a deeper message. While not particularly scary, it still managed to be both gripping and occasionally funny thanks to its well-written script, offering an exciting story along with likable characters.