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Get Out is Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? with updated liberal hypocrisy and horror

The writer-director Jordan Peele has cleverly channelled the constant American conversation about race into a horror story. 

The poster for the 1967 film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, in which a white woman surprised her avowedly liberal parents by bringing home her black fiance (Sidney Poitier, no less), rather earnestly proclaimed it “A love story for today". The new hit Get Out, which has taken more than $113m in the US in less than a month, serves much the same function for the horror genre. Racial tensions have suffused horror before now. The black American underclass got its monstrous revenge on white oppressors in Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs, from 1991, and there was tart commentary on race relations as far back as Night of the Living Dead in 1968. The difference in Get Out is the depiction of liberalism as a new front for racism. White characters in the film happily sing the praises of Barack Obama, Tiger Woods and Jesse Owens. Everything looks dandy from the outside, which only makes the racism more insidious and intractable.

The conversation about race that is a constant, complex part of American life has been channelled cleverly by the writer-director Jordan Peele (best known as one half of the comedy duo Key & Peele) into a scare-story about an African-American man, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who goes with his white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), to stay with her parents for the weekend.

Dad (Bradley Whitford) is a neurosurgeon, Mum (Catherine Keener) a therapist with a sideline in hypnosis. They welcome Chris enthusiastically. But there have already been signs that all is not well. The initial introduction on the porch is filmed not as a series of close-ups and reaction shots, as convention would dictate, but as one wide shot that keeps us at arm’s length before the camera pulls back even further to show that we have in fact been watching the whole encounter from the perspective of the black groundskeeper. If the assumed viewpoint is usually white (just as the gaze is traditionally male), that choice introduces a provocative wrinkle. We get to see how charged this situation might appear to African-American eyes.

There’s more. On the drive down, the couple accidentally hit and kill a deer, and Chris takes a moment to get out of the car and stare pitifully at the animal. The alternation between a close-up of the carcass and a close-up of Chris establishes some sort of unspecified kinship between them. So that when Rose’s father later says, “I see a dead deer at the side of the road and I think, ‘That’s a start,’” we are already primed to wonder if he isn’t really talking about deer at all. The script is adept at planting those seeds of doubt and at understanding how the loaded racist dialogue works—how what we seem to be talking about (roadkill, in this instance) is not really the subject of the conversation.

The suspense is effectively sustained for the whole first half of the movie, with Peele never quite showing his hand. Yes, it’s odd that the staff at the house are all black, and that the family’s white friends are almost ludicrously interested in Chris and “the black experience". But the film doesn’t let the air leak out of its premise until Chris and Rose become panicked and decide to leave. From there, things get crazy. How crazy? Well, it’s saying something when the young actor Caleb Landry Jones, renowned for his scenery-chewing turns in the likes of War on Everyone and Byzantium, is not the most doolally thing in the movie.

Get Out is half a very good film. There is simply too much explaining to do, too many dots to join, for it to sustain its tension. This can happen to the best thrillers or horror movies, so it’s no slight on Peele, a first-time director, that he isn’t able to hold it all together. If the disappointment is that bit keener, this must be because the bar has been set so high in the first half,. The questions posed demand more convincing answers than the ones provided here.

Peele makes some significantly poor choices, too, not least in his promotion of a minor, irritating character from comic relief to budding hero. (That may be his comic background getting the better of his directing career: he overvalues the part that humour has to play.) There is a clunky moment late in the day when the film threatens briefly to turn into The Man with Two Brains, as well as a key special effect that has been swiped without any effort at concealment from Under the Skin. And rather than plump for the savagely realistic outcome which is staring him in the face, Peele chooses to finish on a throwaway comic note. It makes you wonder why he expended so much effort putting the frighteners up his audience if all he wanted was to send them home with a spring in their step.

Get Out opens on Friday.

 

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

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Who will win Great British Bake Off 2017 based on the contestants’ Twitters

An extremely serious and damning investigation. 

It was morning but the sky was as dark as the night – and the night was as dark as a quite dark rat. He walked in. A real smooth gent with legs for seconds. His pins were draped in the finest boot-cut jeans money could buy, and bad news was written all over his face. “I’m Paul,” he said. “I know”. My hooch ran dry that night – but the conversation never did. By nightfall, it was clear as a see-through rat.   

Some might say that going amateur detective to figure out which contestants win and lose in this year’s Great British Bake Off is spoiling the fun faster than a Baked Alaska left out of the freezer. To those people I’d say: yes. The following article is not fun. It is a serious and intense week-by-week breakdown of who will leave GBBO in 2017. How? Using the contestants’ Twitter and Instagram accounts, of course.

The clues are simple but manifold, like a rat with cousins. They include:

  • The date a contestant signed up for social media (was it during, or after, the competition?)
  • Whether a contestant follows any of the others (indicating they had a chance to bond)
  • A contestant’s personal blog and headshots (has the contestant already snaffled a PR?)
  • Pictures of the contestant's baking.
  • Whether a baker refers to themselves as a “baker” or “contestant” (I still haven’t figured this one out but FOR GOD’S SAKE WATSON, THERE’S SOMETHING IN IT)

Using these and other damning, damning, damning clues, I have broken down the contestants into early leavers, mid-season departures, and finalists. I apologise for what I have done.

Early leavers

Kate

Kate appears not to have a Twitter – or at least not one that the other contestants fancy following. This means she likely doesn’t have a book deal on the way, as she’d need to start building her social media presence now. Plus, look at how she’s holding that fork. That’s not how you hold a fork, Kate.

Estimated departure: Week 1

Julia

This year’s Bake Off began filming on 30 April and each series has ten episodes, meaning filming ran until at least 9 July. Julia first tweeted on 8 May – a Monday, presumably after a Sunday of filming. Her Instagram shows she baked throughout June and then – aha! – went on holiday. What does this mean? What does anything mean?

Estimated departure: Week 2

James

James has a swish blog that could indicate a PR pal (and a marketing agency recently followed him on Twitter). That said, after an April and May hiatus, James began tweeting regularly in June – DID HE PERHAPS HAVE A SUDDEN INFLUX OF FREE TIME? No one can say. Except me. I can and I am.

Estimated departure: Week 3

Tom

Token-hottie Tom is a real trickster, as a social media-savvy youngster. That said, he tweeted about being distracted at work today, indicating he is still in his old job as opposed to working on his latest range of wooden spoons. His Instagram is suspiciously private and his Twitter sparked into activity in June. What secrets lurk behind that mysteriously hot face? What is he trying to tell me, and only me, at this time?

Estimated departure: Week 4

Peter

Peter’s blog is EXCEPTIONALLY swish, but he does work in IT, meaning this isn’t a huge clue about any potential managers. Although Peter’s bakes look as beautiful as the moon itself, he joined Twitter in May and started blogging then too, suggesting he had a wee bit of spare time on his hands. What’s more, his blog says he likes to incorporate coconut as an ingredient in “everything” he bakes, and there is absolutely no bread-baking way Paul Hollywood will stand for that.

Estimated departure: Week 5

Mid-season departures

Stacey

Stacey’s buns ain’t got it going on. The mum of three only started tweeting today – and this was simply to retweet GBBO’s official announcements. That said, Stacey appears to have cooked a courgette cake on 9 June, indicating she stays in the competition until at least free-from week (or she’s just a massive sadist).

Estimated departure: Week 6

Chris

Chris is a tricky one, as he’s already verified on Twitter and was already solidly social media famous before GBBO. The one stinker of a clue he did leave, however, was tweeting about baking a cake without sugar on 5 June. As he was in London on 18 June (a Sunday, and therefore a GBBO filming day) and between the free-from week and this date he tweeted about bread and biscuits (which are traditionally filmed before free-from week in Bake Off history) I suspect he left just before, or slap bang on, Week 7. ARE YOU PROUD NOW, MOTHER?

Estimated departure: Week 7

Flo

Flo’s personal motto is “Flo leaves no clues”, or at least I assume it is because truly, the lady doesn’t. She’s the oldest Bake Off contestant ever, meaning we can forgive her for not logging onto the WWWs. I am certain she’ll join Twitter once she realises how many people love her, a bit like Val of seasons past. See you soon, Flo. See you soon.

Estimated departure: Week 8

Liam

Liam either left in Week 1 or Week 9 – with 0 percent chance it was any of the weeks in between. The boy is an enigma – a cupcake conundrum, a macaron mystery. His bagel-eyed Twitter profile picture could realistically either be a professional shot OR taken by an A-Level mate with his dad’s camera. He tweeted calling his other contestants “family”, but he also only follows ONE of them on the site. Oh, oh, oh, mysterious boy, I want to get close to you. Move your baking next to mine.

Estimated departure: Week 9

Finalists

Steven

Twitter bios are laden with hidden meanings and Steven Carter-Bailey’s doesn’t disappoint. His bio tells people to tune in “every” (every!) Tuesday and he has started his own hashtag, #StevenGBBO. As he only started tweeting 4 August (indicating he was a busy lil baker before this point) AND his cakes look exceptionally lovely, this boy stinks of finalist.  

(That said, he has never tweeted about bread, meaning he potentially got chucked out on week three, Paul Hollywood’s reckoning.)

Sophie

Sophie’s Twitter trail is the most revealing of the lot, as the bike-loving baker recently followed a talent agency on the site. This agency represents one of last year’s GBBO bakers who left just before the finale. It’s clear Sophie’s rising faster than some saffron-infused sourdough left overnight in Mary’s proving drawer. Either that or she's bolder than Candice's lipstick. 

Chuen-Yan

Since joining Twitter in April 2017, Yan has been remarkably silent. Does this indicate an early departure? Yes, probably. Despite this, I’m going to put her as a finalist. She looks really nice. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.