Tag Archives: Catherine Keener

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

‘Get Out’ blends scathing social commentary with full-on creep show

Daniel Kaluula and Allison Williams star in 'Get Out.' sinister reason for invitation.

Daniel Kaluula and Allison Williams star in ‘Get Out.’

Get Out
Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford & Catherine Keener
Directed by Jordan Peele
R
In theaters Feb. 24, 2017

On the surface, it starts off like a lot of other horror flicks: After driving a long way out of the city, a young couple, Rose (Allison Williams) and Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) ends up at a house in the woods in the middle of nowhere. The nearest neighbors are miles away, across a lake.

Things seem normal and welcoming enough at first, but soon begin to feel creepy—then very creepy, and then extremely creepy.

Oh—she’s white, he’s black, and five months into their relationship, they’ve gone for him to meet her parents (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) for the first time.

on.

Bradley Whitford & Catherine Keener

Now, in this modern age, interracial dating isn’t even a thing anymore, right? Certainly not among upscale, enlightened, encultured white liberal lefties, folks who “would have voted for Obama a third time” if they could, who love golfer Tiger Woods and who “admire” the culture and the achievements of the black race, all the way back to Jesse Owens besting the Aryan Nazis at the 1936 Berlin Olympics… Right?

There’s definitely a weird vibe in the house. The two black “hired hands,” the groundskeeper and the maid (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel), sure do act strange. And things get even weirder when the neighbors, all white, arrive for a big shindig on the lawn. Everyone is nice—a bit too nice—and the sole black man in attendance (Lakeith Stanfield, Darius on TV’s Atlanta) seems, well, spaced out or something…until he suddenly snaps, stumbles toward Chris and warns him, “Get out!!!”

Betty Gabriel

Betty Gabriel

If Get Out doesn’t exactly sound like any horror movie you’ve ever seen before, that’s because it is, and it isn’t. It takes familiar horror conventions and runs them through a filter of caustic satire about what it’s like—and what it feels like—to be a black man in an America dominated by white culture.

And it comes out as one of the most original horror movies in years.

What’s it like to be a black man with a white woman on a lonely stretch of two-lane when a cop demands to see your ID? What’s it like to be walking alone on street at night in an all-white neighborhood when an automobile rolls up ominously…then stops alongside you? When white people make fawning comments about you and your “people” as if you were different, genetically, physically, culturally?

What’s it like, in a movie like this, when all those things are amplified through a creepshow channel that keeps turning up the volume, slowly but  surely, until everything finally explodes?

The director and writer is Jordan Peele, of the Emmy-winning Comedy Central duo Key & Peele, and he makes a very impressive debut behind the camera, indeed, mixing real chills with generous dollops of genuine laughter—many of them thanks to comedian Lil Rel Howery, who plays Chris’ best friend, a TSA agent who was wary all along of “his boy” venturing upstate to the all-white enclave of Rose’s world.

Peele (who is himself married to a white woman, comedian-actress Chelsea Peretti from TV’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine) is playing with dynamite, and he knows it—especially in a nation, at a time, of #blacklivesmatter, when tensions in communities across the country continue to roil and rumble. You can certainly enjoy Get Out for the pure, giddy goosebumps it brings, but you’d be missing the film’s masterful layering of timely social commentary as well as Jordan’s bold, eventually bloody, cathartic critique of black-and-white relations and stereotypes.

And Peele doesn’t stop there. He draws a subtle, scathing line that connects American imperialism all the way back to its colonial roots, when white men essentially took whatever—and whomever—they wanted.

I don’t want to give too much away, but imagine Meet The Parents plus Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner crossed with Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Stepford Wives and given a twist of Twilight Zone and maybe even a shot of M. Night Shyamalan.

All with a bracing, blistering message about race and skin color—one meant to get under everyone’s skin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Some Enchanted Evening

Music helps heal two broken characters in uplifting summer gem

(L-R) KEIRA KNIGHTLEY and MARK RUFFALO star in BEGIN AGAIN

Begin Again

Starring Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley & Adam Levine

Directed by John Carney

R, 104 min.

Summer is typically when Hollywood brings out the big guns—space aliens, shootouts, explosions, careening cars, rambunctious comedies. But here’s a captivating little romantic charmer that floats along as easily as a summer love song.

Maybe that’s because it all revolves around music. When a bottomed-out record man (Mark Ruffalo) meets a down-in-the-dumps singer-songwriter (Keira Knightley) recovering from a devastating breakup, it turns both of their bruised lives around.

Sure, it’s a bit of a cliché, but Ruffalo and Knightley are immensely likeable—and believable. Knightley, the British actress better know for her Pirates of the Caribbean roles than for anything that requires crooning, shows that she can indeed more than capably carry a tune.

(L-R) KEIRA KNIGHTLEY and ADAM LEVINE star in CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE?

Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine (right) makes his movie acting debut as the rock-star boyfriend of Keira Knightley’s character in ‘Begin Again.’

Ruffalo plays Dan, a scuffed-up New York producer who’s just been canned from the record label he co-founded back in his glory days. “We need vision, not gimmicks!” he fumes. Knightley is Greta, the guitar-playing girlfriend of a fast-rising pop star (real-life pop-rock star Adam Levine, lead singer of the band Maroon 5, making his movie debut), “marooned” herself in New York when she finds out—by deciphering the lyrics of his latest song—that he’s been cheating on her.

The audaciously creative musical project they agree to do together—recording outside, here, there and everywhere, in various New York locations—brings them together, although not exactly to the destination you might think they’re headed.

BEGIN AGAIN

Ceelo Green & Mark Ruffalo

Ceelo Green plays a version of himself as a music mogul who owes Dan for his success, and rapper Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) dons a shirt and tie as a record exec. Catherine Keener has some very natural moments, never overplaying, as Dan’s ex-wife. As their provocatively (under)-dressed teenage daughter, Hailee Steinfeld, 17, gets to play a much more contemporary character than the one that brought her into the spotlight in the Coen Brothers’ 2010 remake of True Grit.

The elements of the story interlace in delightful, heartwarming, human ways, all led by the music. This is a music-lover’s movie, no doubt about it, from the well-crafted original songs written for Knightley and Levine’s characters, to the numerous scenes involving the music business, songwriting and recording, and discussions about artistry, integrity, the creative process, and the potent emotional pathway that leads from the ears to the heart.

(It’s also a reformatted Americanized makeover, by Irish director John Carney, of his 2006 movie Once, if you’re taking notes.)

A particularly lovely sequence has Dan and Greta sharing each other’s favorite songs on earphones as they traverse New York. As they listen to Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca, watching a parade of Manhattan nightlife, Dan remarks how music makes moments memorable, like little “pearls on a string” of otherwise ordinary experiences.

Begin Again won’t make the list of this year’s big, boomy blockbusters. But it’s well worth seeking out if you’re looking for a cool little pearl to savor some sweet, enchanted evening in the middle of the summer heat.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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