Friday, February 24, 2017


Opening this weekend:

Get OutChris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young, gifted and black art photographer in New York City, goes upstate for a weekend in the country with his white girlfriend of four months, Rose (Allison Williams), to meet the affluent parents. Dad (Bradley Whitford) is a neurosurgeon, Mom (Catherine Keener) is a hypnotherapist, creepy brother (Caleb Landry Jones) is a med student.

They seem, initially, like nice folks, a little awkward and self-conscious about Chris’s race, but well-intentioned, even compensatorily over-friendly. But small weirdnesses crop up at once, first with the mannered, inauthentic behavior of the family’s black domestic help (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel) and of another black man who shows up at a party (Lakieth Stanfield), and then with other hints of the sinister.

To say much more would be to give away too much about this horror tale, written and directed by Jordan Peele (half of the comedy team of Key & Peele) in his directorial debut. Suffice to say that it’s a splendidly successful, witty shocker, in large part because Peele is disciplined about playing by the rules, using the theme of racial unease to generate terror along a wonderfully old-fashioned, Ira-Levin-ish Gothic structure.

Kaluuya, a Brit, easily pulls us into his gradually-rising paranoia and makes us root for Chris. The white actors are flawless, from the subtlety of Williams, Whitford, Keener and Stephen Root as a blind gallery owner to the ripe caricature of the unwholesome party guests. And the wide-eyed servants, with their stilted unctuousness, can raise the hairs on your neck. There’s overt comic relief, too, in the form of the ebullient LilRey Howery as Chris’s worried TSA agent pal.

Best of all, while Get Out is sincerely meant to scare, Peele still brings his comic sensibility into play here. There are well-crafted jolts and jumps, and the climactic clashes are conventionally gruesome, but the movie never loses a sense of audience-pleasing fun. Peele connects the film not only to classic horror templates but also to hardwired racial beliefs, both black and white. The plot partly hinges, for instance, on the familiar white conviction, recently displayed by our president, that all black people know each other.

Opening at Sonora Cinema at Desert Sky Mall:

You're Killing Me SusanaEligio is a Mexico City soap actor who likes to stay out late, drink, and fool around with women from the set. One morning he wakes up to find his stunning writer wife Susana (Veronica Echegui) absent from bed and apartment. Her clothes are absent from the closet, too.

Stunned and shaken—he thought they were doing great—Eligio traces Susana to a writer's workshop at a college in Iowa. He drops everything and follows her there, where he finds her involved with a virile, silent Polish poet.

From here on, You're Killing Me Susana (Me Estas Matando Susana), directed by Roberto Sneider from a Jose Agustin novel, becomes both a romantic comedy with serious overtones and a spiky look at U.S. culture through an outsider's eyes. In both functions it's charged up by the performance of Gael Garcia Bernal—probably best known to U.S. audiences as the young Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries—as Eligio.

With his insolent sexual confidence and persistent (if mostly ineffectual) machismo, Eligio is the sort who can smirk at his own infidelities yet throw wailing, floor-pounding tantrums at Susana's without seeming to notice the incongruity. The breathtaking Echegui makes you see how the combination of Eligio's oppressive selfishness and his unshakable lovability could make sneaking away while he's asleep seem like the only escape.

This wry, absorbing, unpredictable movie can truly be called a comedy-drama, deftly tipping from near-farcical to poignant without losing its balance, on either side of the hyphen.

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