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GO OUT AND SEE ‘GET OUT’

Now that we’ve wrung the best of 2016 dry, it’s time to move on—and Get Out is just what the doctor ordered: a smart, bracing, original piece of work that marks Jordan Peele’s feature directing debut. (He also wrote the screenplay but it’s not his first; he shared credit for last year’s Keanu.)

I hadn’t seen the trailer or read a single word about Get Out when my daughter and son-in-law insisted Alice and I join them for a showing. That clean slate made the movie’s unfolding surprises especially potent–and I’m not about to spoil the experience for anyone else. Rising star Daniel Kaluuya plays a successful photographer who leaves the city with his girlfriend (Allison Williams) to meet her family for the first time at their country estate. She’s white and he’s concerned that she hasn’t told them he’s black. Little does he know what lies in store for him.

Peele opens the movie with a seemingly disconnected prologue that is designed to create both suspense and unease. It’s the first of many ingenious touches. Just as Peele and partner Keegan-Michael Key found clever ways of dealing with racial issues on their sketch-comedy TV show, this movie turns clichés and social metaphors inside out. With skilled performers like Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Stephen Root, and the very funny Lil Rel Howery on hand, Peele is able to navigate the most audacious plot turns with unerring skill.

One small spoiler, if I may: the film’s opening scene makes wicked use of a beloved (if now obscure) British recording by the music-hall team of Flanagan and Allen. I’ve always enjoyed their rendition of “Run Rabbit Run” but I may never be able to listen to it again without thinking of the lethal way it’s used in this movie!

Peele has named Night of the Living Dead as an inspiration. You may be reminded of other creepy movies like Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, but this is neither a retread nor a spoof. It’s a rare, seamless blend of horror and comedy: a stinging satire cloaked as a thriller.

 

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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