All righty. I’m gonna say something controversial, I think. And it’s a bit of a spoiler for this review.
I didn’t like this movie.
I went in with high hopes. I loved the trailers. Other people loved it. Surely I wasn’t wrong in expecting greatness.
Before I get into it, remember that I’m drunk and I may reveal a spoiler or two since my internal editor is currently trapped in the basement, bound to a high-backed chair with a ball gag shoved in his mouth.
Chris Washington, a black man, has plans to go home with Rose Armitage, his white girlfriend, and meet her family. Naturally he’s a bit reticent but she reassures him that her parents, Missy and Dean, are cool and will end up loving him as much as she does. And while that does seem the case at first, it doesn’t take long for Chris to realize something is…off in this household.
Missy is a hypnotherapist who seems awfully eager to work on Chris to get him to stop smoking. Despite Dean’s assurances to the safety and success of her methods, Chris refuses. But apparently Missy doesn’t take no for an answer because she tricks him under. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the weird shit that goes on around here.
Georgina and Walter, the housekeeper and groundsman (both black), are probably the twitchiest pair of people Chris meets. During a party at the Armitage estate, where we are privileged to a gathering of old farts the like I haven’t seen since the Satanist movies of the 70s, the one other young black man in attendance acts even whiter than his 60-year-old pasty white sugar mama. Chris’ phone keeps getting unplugged; he’s having crazy dreams; and everyone is looking at him like the main course at a Thanksgiving feast.
What the fuck is going on?
Now before you all get pissy and internalize my dislike of this film as some kind of personal and/or racist attack, I didn’t completely hate the whole thing. Daniel Kaluuya (Black Mirror), who plays Chris, is great. He does a fantastic job of pulling the audience into his mindset. He’s truly a decent guy who’s been thrown into an uncomfortable-turned-terrifying situation. LilRel Howery, who plays Chris’ friend Rod, is the awesome comic relief (his whole sex slave theory is HIGH-larious). The visuals are stunning and I really loved the music. And I’ve got to say the ending is pretty dang epic. Everyone who SHOULD die DOES die in really fun and awesome ways!
That said, most of the story was actually predictable. I mean, we all go into to this thinking something is hinky. That’s obvious from the trailers. But about 1/3 of the way in I mostly had it figured out.
SPOILERS AHOY! (damn how did my editor escape?)
If you’ve seen The Skeleton Key, you don’t need to watch this. It’s basically the same premise but instead of hoodoo, the Armitages use neuroscience and hypnosis to achieve the same goals. Sure it embeds a lot of social commentary about race and society and preconceived notions of the human race blah blah blah blah….zzzzzzzzzzzzzz…….
I knew from the get go that Rose was in on it. She was not very convincing at playing dumb and there was no way any of the plot would work if she wasn’t involved. Her father was acting “too” okay with Chris being black in order to make him feel at ease or at least distract him from the truth (it was during his tour of the grounds with Chris that I started to guess what was going on). Her mom gave away the hypno tell right away. Her brother is way over the top eager to create conflict with Chris. And could all the party guests arriving in their black vehicles BE more obvious? Maybe Jordan Peele thought he was laying story breadcrumbs but it was more like whole loaves of sourdough while throwing croissants and bagels at us.
The film was over hyped as far as I’m concerned so I don’t recommend running out and catching it before it’s gone from theaters. Comes to cable? You can rent it for cheap? Sure, give it a shot. But I wouldn’t go out of your way.
In fact, I’m kinda angry about the whole experience. I really should have hit the theater bar before going in. Sure, it was 10:00am and it wasn’t open yet. Haven’t these people heard of Bloody Mary’s or Mimosas, dammit? Why won’t they ever help me?