Director: Jordan Peele
Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elizabeth Moss
Runtime: 1 hr 56 mins
What It Is: The Wilson family are on their way to what is supposed to be a relaxing summer vacation, but when a mysterious traumatic event that links Adelaide Wilson (Nyong’o) to the nearby boardwalk in Santa Cruz leads her to feel there’s something coming after them, the family finds themselves in the presence of their twisted and deadly doppelgängers and are forced to survive.
What We Think: What a wonderful buildup to such a needlessly convoluted story.
Peele is certainly a capable director—we rooted for him at the start as he was coming into his seat as a major filmmaker. Though personally, I can’t say I was a huge fan of his debut Get Out, I could still see all the potential in his line of future works. As for this release, in particular, I was itching to see it, which rarely happens anymore when it comes to mainstream cinema. I wanted to know what he had to say next and that’s a success in itself. What I received upon viewing it today was a horror thriller with a plethora of concepts that don’t ever really connect. Maybe something will come to me with time, but what I thought was being offered was something more psychological. I wondered, is this pertaining to trauma? Duality? The fault of American society? Animal testing? Or is it just a bunch of what seem like big ideas put together and “left up to interpretation?” While the setup in the first act is keen and leaves you willing and eager to try to put the pieces together, you come to find it’s rather lacking. The characters become more grating and less relatable, the plot grows scattered, and you’re left with the leads you had in hand lost and useless due to flawed, vague plot devices. After watching, the more you try to think about what this film is saying, the less it makes any sense at all. I really wanted this film to be something more, to make a more direct statement instead of being two hours of throwing abrupt and heavy-handed elements at us one after the other with no apparent cohesion in sight. The third act felt like it was shrugging and saying “this is a horror movie, right? Gotta do what all the other horror movies do.” It became predictable; I saw a few of the “twists” coming by the second act (just ask my theater buddy).
Our Grade: C, The wonderful performances of Nyong’o and even Moss (having a much a smaller role) aren’t lost on me. Even a good chunk of the child acting is appreciable. The cinematography is pretty good. As I mentioned before—the first act is pretty great and has you guessing. But problems arise in the answers you’re ultimately given—while this lends itself as a thinkpiece, it loses the impact in its attempted multiple meanings and just feels silly and a sort of messy. I suppose my number one issue is the ending. It has me asking “why,” and not in a good way. Maybe this could have served better as an hour-long episode in Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot; it would have been more powerful had it been kept simpler (much like its predecessor Get Out). It’s entertaining enough and has a good lot of potential for a watch. Who knows–I didn’t, but maybe you’ll get something out of it.