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Get Out

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2.38

Reviewer: Philip Price

Director: Jordan Peele

Stars: 

Released: March 17th, 2017

Get Out is the directorial debut of Jordan Peele who you might recognize from the sketch comedy show, Key & Peele. Get Out is not a comedy though it contains a fair amount of laughs, namely from the performance of stand-up comedian LilRel Howery who will get many, many jobs from this star-making performance. What Get Out actually turns out to be is a rather striking thriller that provides a topical conversation around racial tensions that then amplifies and exaggerates the inherent tensions of its presented scenario in a way that both plays with the tropes of the horror genre while delivering commentary on innate and unavoidable fears in the black community. I heard someone explain it as, “playing on black people’s fear of white people’s fear of black people,” and it’s hard to put it any better or more simply than that. This is all to get to the point that Get Out is making the point that we need to stop pretending we know what it’s like to walk in other people’s shoes. Not that these assumptions can’t be compassionate, but more that they are unnecessary. Get Out begins as one thing-playing on the natural awkwardness that comes along with a black guy going to meet his white girlfriends entirely white family in their very white/suburban neighborhood for the first time and then, once it arrives there, takes steps using its genre classification to get at this idea that no matter how good or well-intentioned one might be, it is near impossible to have a real comprehension of what people who have experienced struggles and/or faced some kind of oppression have indeed been through and more over, who they became out of such experiences. Get Out is a film that plays on those facets of ourselves that we’d rather not acknowledge-that no matter how much we believe ourselves to be above stereotyping people or forming preconceptions, that there is a truth to such ways of thinking and Peele uses this unavoidable, unflattering truth to draw out a fair amount of anxiety. Peele plays on those anxieties and social standards exceptionally as through to the very last frame Get Out keeps things as taut as any horror movie in recent memory while never losing sight of its original intent no matter how crazy the genre hijinks get.

Peele is in the zone from the word go when it comes to crafting his film as a whole though. The opening sequence in which an unassuming young man (Lakeith Stanfield) walks the streets of a nice neighborhood while talking on his cell phone and is very critically in the midst of a light conversation delivers key context clues. We immediately sympathize with the character as he appears pleasant and anxious to see the girlfriend he is chatting with on the phone while not unaware of his predicament when a car begins to slowly follow him. A black guy walking the sidewalks of a suburban neighborhood late at night. He and we get how this might look. To those that aren’t black or any other color than Caucasian that haven’t felt as if they’ve been profiled due to factors having to do with everything but their personality it is hard to imagine a world where one has to be cautious of such things, but Peele is smart enough to recognize this and to immediately place us in that headspace before taking things to what we’d like to imagine is mostly an exaggerated extreme. The opening title sequence is a bit of brilliance in and of itself as well as the film cuts from the deliberately terrifying opening sequence to something very much in line with the horror genre-a camera moving quickly past endless, bare trees with a dark and ominous score hovering in between them before jolting us out of the mood and into our protagonists modern apartment where his photography skills are displayed through prints of gorgeous black and white portraits on the wall with the music switching to that of Childish Gambino’s, “Redbone,” in which the chorus warns to, “Stay Woke.” The foreshadowing is not lost on the discerning viewer. By glimpsing these two very distinct tones, very distinct flavors by the time the opening credits have finished the audience is immediately steeped in the atmosphere the film intends to simulate and, for a first time feature director, Peele is able to expertly carry this tone throughout the entirety of his film; heightening it as the arc calls for it and executing plot lines effortlessly so as to bring everything full circle by the time the big reveal is made and further into what is one of the most breathtaking and satisfying denouement’s in my movie-going experience.

Our protagonist, Chris, is portrayed by British actor Daniel Kaluuya who you might have seen in Sicario, but here he is an American photographer who very intentionally fits the bill of average mid to late twenties male. There is nothing particularly exceptional about Chris, but he is clearly a well put together guy who has a good enough eye with his camera that he’s been able to become fairly successful as a photographer. We meet his girlfriend of four five months, Rose (Girls‘ Allison Williams), as she does the whitest of white things and waits in line to buy overpriced coffee and pastries at what is no doubt a hip, local bistro before arriving at Chris’ apartment to make sure he’s all packed and pick him up before they hit the road. Neither of these leading roles seem as if they’ll be much of a stretch or even too challenging for the two actors, but as the film progresses and the complexity of the bigger picture is made more clear it becomes all the more impressive what these two have been laying the foundation for since those aforementioned humble beginnings. Add into this the delightful aura that Bradley Whitford brings to his character of the overcompensating dad who is trying to impress his daughter’s new boyfriend as much as he is trying to impress him coupled with Catherine Keener’s opposite end of the spectrum and it’s as if one could feel the sense of unease in the air. And as mentioned previously, when Chris and Rose first arrive at the Armitage estate Peele uses the inherent delicate situation that presents itself as a means from which he draws the chills and tension before taking things to whole other allegorical levels. Aiding in this transition from a more reality-based scenario to that of the exaggerated heights Get Out eventually reaches though, is the fact the family employs black people as servants. Walter (Marcus Henderson) is the groundskeeper who, for one reason or another, likes to exercise in the pitch black of night while Georgina (a revelatory Betty Gabriel) is the maid. Both seem more subdued and willing to work and mind their own business than what would be typical of someone in a role such as these, but neither ever hint at anything that would contradict reality being more than it appears. Caleb Landry Jones, who can’t seem to help but to play disturbed and psychotic young men, shows up as Rose’s younger misfit brother who Whitford’s Dean assures Chris will soon be following in his father’s footsteps as a neurosurgeon. File in party guests that are never obvious in their racism, but don’t realize the implied ill will in their sometimes downright lewd comments and there is more than enough to unpack when it comes to social constructs and racial profiling in the performances alone.

Furthermore, it is the writing of Peele that gives these performers such biting material to deliver and that, most impressively, stays consistent throughout the films entire runtime and most striking-through its faultless pacing. No matter how well the majority of horror films begin the trickiest part is always pulling off an ending in a way where every facet and action that has been laid out prior is paid off in the reveal and in the actions and consequences the characters take and are made subject to in the final moments. Does the end justify the means we took to get there? In Get Out, everything has a purpose. Early on, when Chris and Rose are on the road to Rose’s parents something happens that is very much a cliché when it comes to horror films and my first inclination was to wonder how this might play into the story as a whole. As Chris especially is affected by the event we are made to wonder why this resonated so strongly with the character. It becomes a key part of not only why Chris behaves the way he does-from what habits he has formed to what action he feels he needs to take and not take in different situations-but also in lending the character a rare weakness and opening for Keener’s Missy to take advantage of as she’s (too) desperate to try out a hypnosis trick on this young man she just met. We see Georgina constantly messing with her hair only for that to be explained in a truly shocking turn of events. We meet Stephen Root as one of the only, seemingly level-headed guests that attend the Armitage’s weekend get-together, but whose comments may or may not hide a deeper truth and envy than Chris interprets upon first speaking with him. As the film does, but almost unfortunately, draw to its conclusion it gives way to a single, throughline idea that is executed in flawless fashion. Everything lines up. Even the initially muddled objective becomes clear once it is explained through action rather than speech and is understood in a way that both makes sense, but is simultaneously even more revolting than one might have imagined when they couldn’t quite wrap their head around it all two scenes prior. Get Out may not be necessarily scary in the traditional sense of how we expect horror/mystery movies to frighten us, but it is more disturbing on a much deeper level and one that is benefited all the more for being so. Not just in its success as a piece of art, but as a satirical social commentary that exposes the vicious circle of assumptions and prejudice Get Out works on nearly every level it attempts to play on. It is a great film. I can’t wait to see it again. I can’t wait to experience a different audience’s reaction to it. I can’t wait to discuss it even more.

I love movies, simple as that. I watch them with an intent to write about them and have always enjoyed discussing the latest news and releases with others. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Mass Communications/Digital Filmmaking and combined those interests when I began writing about cinema. Hope you enjoy the reviews, Happy reading!

Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – Colette

Colette can feel a tad velvety at times but is lifted by Keira Knightley’s sensual performance and liberating battle that painfully resonates today.

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Director: Wash Westmoreland

Stars: Keira Knightley, Dominic West

Released: London Film Festival 2018

Born in 19th century France, Sidonie Gabrielle Colette wrote more than 80 volumes depicting her childhood, her life, her pains and pleasures. Her writings were sensual, vivid and all published under her husband name, “Willy”.

No stranger to female-centric stories, Wash Westmoreland follows up on “Still Alice” and “Echo Park, L.A.” with this dazzling period biopic starring Keira Knightley and Dominic West.

The film starts, the young country girl, Colette (Knightley), marries writer and critic Henri Gauthier-Villars (“Willy”) who introduces her to Parisian salons. Willy soon finds himself in debts and is desperate enough to seek his wife’s help. She will write. Colette writes what she knows and her first novella, “Claudine à l’école” (Claudine at school) is a success. Willy forces her to write the next ones, locked in a golden cage, to ensure his fame and success.

The settings are sumptuous and we gladly follow the camera through the stunning but confined Parisian apartments where the outside light only comes through when she feels inspired. Costumes evolve, as Colette, from heavy and restricted dresses to wild and daring clothing as if Mademoiselle Chanel had designed them herself.

Colette finally loosens from her husband and experiments with woman, society and dancing, feeding her inspiration. Forced and uncredited, Colette cannot enjoy writing and runs off to perform in the music-hall in her own name. In like most biopics, we go from one key event to another, regrettably quickly and often without knowing how we got there. Willy’s sudden appointment of his wife is left as unexplained as the abrupt ending that could have potentially seen Colette, a happy writer.

In the second part of the film Westmoreland seems more interested in looking at the awakening of a young woman rather than at the birth of an author whereas Keira Knightley shines in the lead role. Often known for playing the innocent and rebellious youth, Knightley still pulls off the young Colette in the first part of the film but is at her best when she evolves into a mature woman, aware of own desires. The best scenes of the film come when Colette is free and herself, usually in the company of other woman, particularly the terribly charming Missy (Denise Gough). Westmoreland multiplies two shots and close ups and creates impactful intimate scenes but regrettably gives up on them too fast.

It is a change to see a character such as “Willy” that is both ridiculous and loving. This duality creates, perhaps, a more truthful relationship between the two. No one is born an artist and behind every writer there is an intuitive editor (and in 20th century France, who else could it be than a man?). For Westmoreland if there is no Claudine without Colette, there would have been no Colette without Willy.

With its lavish setting and jumping plot, Colette can feel a tad velvety at times but is lifted by Keira Knightley’s sensual performance and liberating battle that painfully resonates today.

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Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – If Beale Street Could Talk

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Beale Street Movie Marker

Released: 8th February 2019

Directed By: Barry Jenkins

Starring: Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Brian Tyree Henry

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

In his entrancing and eventual Best Picture Oscar winner ‘Moonlight’, it was the longing to be authentic. To be accepted in an often volatile environment that powered its narrative.

Clearly in this pitch-perfect adaptation of the James Baldwin novel, director Barry Jenkins is consumed with longing of a different kind that is just as potent. Justice. An eradication of the infuriating systemic abuse of law and power against black people in America, that sees this luminous love story in 1970’s Harlem, strike modern-day parallels with our own divided, morally skewed society.

An incandescent portrayal of young romance. The tenderness, respect and sheer revolve that underpins the relationship between Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) will leave you spellbound from the outset, as their lives are soon mired in despair. The rapturous joy of new life as Tish falls pregnant, backed up by the triple threat of mom Sharon (Regina King), dad Joseph (Colman Domingo) and sister Ernestine (Teyonah Parris). Quickly cancelled out by the malice of Fonny’s staunchly religious family and a false yet potentially devastating rape allegation made against him, as they scramble to prove his innocence.

Punctuated by Kiki Layne’s wholesome narration and an overwhelmingly beautiful Nicholas Brittell score that i would be content listening to for days on end. Jenkins exchanges the melancholic blues of his previous effort for a broader but no less lush visual palette, with its exquisite interiors and classy costume design almost serving as a rainbow for the tears that have streamed down their faces through such hardship, but their spirit and love continues to illuminate their gritty surroundings. Whether it be lingering close-ups of sweet embrace or deep sorrow. Its director doesn’t flinch for a second in conveying the simmering emotions on display and in doing so, leaves you completely transfixed by his tactful approach to the source material.

There is a raw resilient energy that permeates throughout its central romance. Kiki Layne’s Tish serves as the remarkably understated, calming influence to Stephan James’ broken-hearted prisoner, a slave to a corrupt system with a searing monologue by Fonny’s dear friend Daniel (Brian Tyree Henry) reinforcing the pain inflicted. Through it all, their hopeful adoring looks and stifling intimacy simply captivate. In Regina King’s marvellous mother figure, she peppers the film with considerable candour, armed with dialogue that pierces your soul. Whilst Jenkins leaves enough room for inspired cameos that are best left a secret, which gorgeously represent a sense of community and a progression in attitude, that defies the period.

A steady panning shot as Fonny smokes may seem throwaway. In this case, it is awfully fitting to articulate the finesse of its director. Lose yourself in the mesmeric haze of ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’.

A lyrical experience that reminds you of the poetic power cinema can truly possess. His love for the art form brought him here. On this form. Trust Barry Jenkins to go all the way.

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Movie Reviews

LFF 2018 Review – Stan & Ollie

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Stan and Ollie Rating Movie Marker

Released: 11th January 2019

Directed By: Jon S Baird

Starring: Steve Coogan, John C.Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda

Reviewed By: Darryl Griffiths

Products of classic Hollywood whose superior slapstick routines triggered endless laughter from their legion of fans, propelling them to legendary status. The sheer physicality and comedic prowess displayed by the English/American duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, still puts many modern-day efforts to shame.

But like so many comedians, there is a tragic element to their careers that contradicts their profession. Through this solid biopic by Filth director Jon S. Baird, it looks to give us a poignant insight into the duo’s grueling twilight years.

Their popularity slowly dwindling. Their bones creaking. Whether on the big screen or the stage, Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Hardy (John C.Reilly) are suddenly not the hottest ticket in town in the early 1950’s. Lumbered with Rufus Jones’ Bernard Delfont, a wisecracking promoter who seems more invested in the likes of Norman Wisdom, they look to reignite interest with a lengthy theatre tour and a long-gestating film project. Yet with audiences middling, contract negotiations stalling and the workload far beyond what was expected, it puts a significant strain on the health and friendship of these two towering talents.

Inevitably with its story, you would expect ‘Stan & Ollie’ to be assured in its abilities to make you laugh. However much of the first half feels surprisingly stilted as Coogan and C.Reilly throw themselves into the pair’s much-beloved routines, with regular cutbacks to their adoring audiences. For the uninitiated, it may initially make you wonder what the fuss was about. Thankfully as the film’s supporting players are introduced to spar with our central characters, it finds a more consistent comedic rhythm, neatly intertwining with the film’s simmering emotion.

Whilst it’s undoubtedly a few visual flourishes away from being a formulaic BBC Christmas special. The admiration of S.Baird for Laurel & Hardy certainly shines through in its refined production, beginning with an exquisite tracking shot on a studio lot as he works his way through the duo’s masterful mischief with fondness.

The rapport between John C.Reilly and Steve Coogan anchors proceedings wonderfully, skilfully capturing the mannerisms and effectively articulating how dependent they are of each other, despite their ongoing disputes. In C.Reilly’s Ollie, his fully-fleshed turn pierces through the fat suit he wears, whose willingness to perform despite failing health is soul-stirring. Whilst the relentless nature of Coogan’s Stan, as he looks to churn out the material strong enough to breathe new life into their double act, makes for compelling viewing. The real danger posed however, is that the film’s main attraction are nearly upstaged by their witty wives, with Shirley Henderson’s Lucille and Nina Arianda’s Ida threatening to steal every scene they grace.

Entertaining enough to gently applaud. Yet perhaps not an act that quite raises the roof. ‘Stan and Ollie’ coasts by on its endearing nostalgic charm and committed performances.

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