CHICAGO – When faced with adversity, the best way around it is to somehow break into song. That is the feeling behind the Brown Paper Box Co.’s “Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret,” running April 7th and 8th at Mary’s Attic in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. The event features company member Kristi Szczepanek as host, and presents song stylings by other company members, including Anna Schutz, plus some special guests. For details and ticket information, click here.
‘Get Out’ is Funny, Scary & Tells Us About Us
CHICAGO – When he got his chance, writer/director Jordan Peele (“Key & Peele”) completely understood what he had to do – combine his skewered hilarity, love of horror movies and true social conscience, and put them all into one great movie. Ladies and germs, “Get Out.”
The title is a riff on an old Eddie Murphy routine, as in, “a black man would never stay in the ‘Amityville Horror’ house, they would ‘tip out the door’ as soon as they heard the house say, ‘GET OUT!’” Peele combines this with a “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (50th Anniversary) vibe, as a African American photographer meets his white girlfriend’s upper middle class parents. Through the brilliant filter of Mr. P, the whole atmosphere of the film is so funny, so chilling and so knowing that it joins the rare company of the horror film that actually means something. If you’ve seen all the Oscar Best Picture picks, this is the perfect film to clear the jets before the big night, and kick off the 2017 film year in earnest.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is a successful New York City photographer who enjoys a new relationship with Rose (Allison Williams). It is time to “meet the parents,” but Rose has neglected to tell her Mom and Dad (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitfield) that her new beau is African American. When Chris’s best friend Rod (LilRel Howery) finds this out, he advises caution.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) Experiences a Memory in ‘Get Out’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures
It turns out that the parents are fine with the relationship, but the house has a limousine liberal vibe, as well as two bizarre black “house staffers” (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel). When Rose’s mother, a psychiatrist, suggests hypnotism to cure Chris’s smoking habit, a series of events begin to occur that are larger than the awkward greetings Chris has to endure from the lily white house visitors, including gallery owner Jim Hudson (Stephen Root).
The coolest thing about this film is that Jordan Peele gets it – it’s obvious that he loves the psychological horror films (“Halloween,” “The Haunting”) and their “don’t go in the basement” type intricacies. The complexities of the situation reveal themselves organically, and although the type of “condition” that emerges has been seen before, Peele manages to put a fresh spin on it through the white condescension toward African Americans, that as everyone knows is a still a constant in American society.
Peele also had a near perfect cast. Allison Williams is the perfect angular white girl, who never lets on that there is something lurking beneath the surface. Bradley Whitfield plays against type as the Dad, and seems to revel in the twists of the character. Catherine Keener is one of those performer gems, where every time she appears in a film she knocks the cover off the ball. She certainly studied every great horror antagonist, and brought it to bear in her creepy Mom.
Chris and Rose (Allison Williams) on Their Way in ‘Get Out’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures
But the film MVPs are the two lead African American actors, and the supporting black cast. Daniel Kaluuya as Chris has to show a breakdown mostly in his face, as a burden of his past is slowly revealed. Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel as the house staff add the eeriness, the cold clamminess that makes horror films zing (Betty G.’s face in close up is a work of art). But the Scene-Stealer-Extraordinaire Award goes to Chicago comedian LilRel Howery as Rod, who takes the occupation of a TSA agent to a whole new level. He’s more than comic relief, he’s a comic spectacular.
This is the best film of the fresh new year, reintroducing the great Jordan Peele as a major new voice, which now is translated into a hilarious, multi-layered film. He encompasses the journey of the African American image in film as well, 50 years after a seemingly benign Sidney Poitier came to dinner.