Sunday, March 24, 2019

Us

By sati (harlequinade) Sunday, March 24, 2019 , , , , , , , , ,
(spoilers!)

When I first saw Get Out I liked it a lot but it oddly didn't make a huge impression on me. Howeve,r recently I rewatched the film again and then again and upon subsequent viewings my mind was blown by how clever and intricate the script is. Every moment, every shot, every line has a purpose and pretty much everything that happens in the movie obeys the logic of the universe the film is set in. It's one of the most brilliant scripts I've ever seen unfold on the sceen. The more you think about Get Out, the more you like it. Unfortunately, it's the opposite with Us.

There's a lot of people saying that we shouldn't analyze it too much and that we should give Peele a pass but this is not something I am going to do here. I am not gonna give him a pass for this lazy script.  When you go for metaphors you also have to make sure the film works as a regular story. That the internal logic of the events is intact. The story presented in Us collapses under any kind scrutiny when with Get Out you really had to try and find the holes in the story - I think the only one is the fact that Rose lured so many black guys and the cops weren't knocking on Armitages' doors. Surely someone would connect the dots and say "hey, this chick dates them and then they disappear". With Us the whole set up is truly nonsensical. It's like we are watching the first draft of the script play out.

The whole idea of underground society that mimics the above world is cool but it's extremely half-baked. What if someone boarded a plane and flew to another part of the county? How would the clone get there? What about nutrition? They couldn't possibly live off rabbits. And what about hygiene and all of that? The tunnels looked clean but Peele still inserted the exposition dump from Red who claims the experiment is abandoned. He should have either let it be and not explain anything or provided a better explanation. Having things done in the middle didn't work at all.

Then there is the very set up of the movie and its final twist which also makes no sense. How was Adelaide's clone the only one who ever wandered off to the exit? And why didn't real Adelaide go back up after she freed herself? I'm sure you can come up with some forced explanations but here's the thing - you shouldn't have to. Then there is a whole bunch of stuff that's not well established and leads people to have the weirdest theories. Some people actually thought Jason is a clone too because he could control his doppelganger. It seemed clear to me the only reason he could was because his doppelganger was the youngest and most feral.
Then there's the issue with marketing. I haven't seen the trailers for Get Out but I heard they spoil the entire film. It's also the case with Us. Two major developments - Kitty having a doppelganger herself and the clone choking real Adelaide are spoiled there. If you saw the trailer, you saw the twist. I am however astonished by how many people claim the twist is nonsensical when the twist was crucial to the story.

In spite of some unnecessary and bizarre ramblings from Red about her and Adelaide's clone being 'special', the story here is actually very simple and elegant. The clone was special in a sense that it had the desire of replacing the real Adelaide. And real Adelaide being trapped there was the only way this story could have worked. Red is the only one who can speak. She is the only one who knows what the clones are being denied. That is her whole motivation for starting the revolution. Her revenge. Her monologue after they break into the house is heartbreaking when you realize the truth - she had to endure rape and suffering when the impostor was experiencing joy above the surface.
It also adds to the character of clone Adelaide. We cannot exactly think of her as evil in the end. Yes, she has done horrible things. But we also saw her as loving and protective mother. The twist adds dimension to both characters. There are also very clever hints that the Adelaide we think is real isn't. When she comes back she doesn't speak (because she doesn't know how to). When her family eats junk food she eats strawberries, grateful for the life she has. When she kills she starts making savage noises, that aren't quite human.

Also it's very clear clone Adelaide remembers what she has done. She knows why they are there. She doesn't need to ask questions. She feels sympathy for the children. And when she descends to the facility she knows exactly where to go.
The film is very clearly a commentary about the class system, poverty and privilege. The twist also drives the point of  the story home - that we are shaped by our circumstances and we all come into this world the same. It's what around us and what opportunities are given to us that shapes us. Still, there is some stuff that for a viewer from outside of USA was so on the nose it was embarrassing, like poor Nyong'o being forced to utter groan-inducing "we are Americans". And of course the end of the movie which seemed to me like it was hinting at the wall around Mexico Trump wants to built. OK? And? Also the similarity to The Invitation's ending doesn't do Us any favors because The Invitation was a much better written movie than this is. Also, yes it is USA. And no one shoots those doppelgangers? Really? Come on.

Still, for all of its shortcomings Us has some true brilliance in its script most evident in the handling of the characters of Kitty and her doppelganger. Kitty is shallow and vain and her doppelganger associates beauty with pain - given how Kitty decided to have procedures to look better. So we are treated to extremely unnerving sequence where Elizabeth Moss shines as the silent doppelganger who, after lifetime of mimicking putting on a lip gloss, actually gets to put on a real lip gloss this time. And then she takes scissors to her face, in the film's most disturbing moment. There's also a terrific character moment when she lets out silent scream as her husband doppelganger dies. Then she laughs because she always resented him.
The whole sequence at their house is the highlight of the film. It's very disturbing and the twins are probably the scariest characters in the film (there's a brilliant visual reference to The Shining here also those girls used to play Rachel and Ross' daughter on Friends). The sounds the doppelgangers make are so creepy and the film is easily more scary than Get Out. Red's voice and her movements are the stuff of nightmares and the fact that she is given such a heart breaking backstory makes her character even more unforgettable. The costumes the tethered wear are inspired by Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and the whole plan ends with recreating Hands Across America gesture - the last pop culture reference Adelaide remembers from the real world. Now that is really clever. After all the whole rebellion was planned by an unhinged woman who spent her life in isolation, traumatized.

There are a lot of reviewers saying that this movie is funnier than Get Out and that's simply not true. Get Out had so much humour there and laugh out loud moments provided by brilliant Lil Rel Howery as the protagonist's friend. His scenes were separate from the rest of the story, so the hilarious tone of those didn't interfere with tension because the character was in a different setting. That is a big problem here. Lupita Nyong'o delivers two performances as is she was in a very serious movie. Winston Duke, as delightful as he is, acts as if he was in horror parody and in numerous moments so do the actors who play the couple's children. The result is that nearly every tense moment have some sort of joke in it and you don't really buy that, other than Adelaide, these are the people who are worried about their life and the lives of their loved ones.
Thankfully while the script and tone are not the movie's strengths everything else is superb. The cinematography is truly brilliant and the film does the best thing a horror can do - much like last year's chilling Hereditary whenever there is something creepy in the shot you have to notice it yourself, the camera won't zoom in and there won't be a sound signalling something is off. This makes the whole movie so much more unnerving. There's also a stunning split diopter shot in the movie.

Michael Abels who provided the chilling score for Get Out does an even better job here. From the fantastic track accompanying the opening credits through the awesome music used during the tense scenes o the terrific cover of "I Got 5 on it" that plays during the pivotal scene the music is one of the greatest soundtracks in horror movies in recent years.
Nyong'o is the star of the movie and delivers a wonderful performance, especially as Red. Still, for all the praise she is receiving I still found Toni Collette's work in last year's Hereditary far superior and impressive than this. Nyong'o protagonist is pretty standard horror movie heroine. It's as Red that she is truly brilliant and I have no doubt that this character will be the most memorable thing about this movie.

Overall, Us is unfortunately a disappointment and hopefully only a temporary lack of form for Peele as a writer. The story is so lazy and I expected much more from him. His Twilight Zone reboot premiers next week and I really hope this one will prove that Get Out wasn't just the exception and he is capable of providing more brilliantly written stories.
77/100
Us (2019, USA, 116 min)
Plot: A family's serenity turns to chaos when a group of doppelgängers begins to terrorize them.
Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Stars: Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss



29 comments:

  1. I agree with everything you've said, and from reading other reviews I'm glad there's a general consensus for the things that don't make sense, because it makes me feel better about how I didn't understand it!
    There's still a lot to enjoy here though, and I'll blindly watch whatever Peele makes next!

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    1. To be Honest my hype on him went waaaay down after this. If he was comfortable delivering audiences a story that lazy than I overestimated him

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  2. This is why I love movies. Reactions can vary so wildly and I love different points of view. With "Us" my take away was so different than yours. I was just the opposite - let down by "Get Out" and a bit bewildered by the praise for it but made a true believer in Peele after "Us". I loved its open-endedness (is that a word) especially since he is talking about revisiting the "Us" world. But as always I love your thoughts. Always gets me thinking.

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    1. Thank you! For me the script has to work and here it really didn't. Get Out imho had a stellar script.

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  3. Ha! Fair point about the guns! Tim and Kitty definitely seem like they'd have them. Plus they must have robbed a Staples or something for all those scissors.

    I felt so bad for original Addie it did kind of color my perception of the character. I feel like it would have been more interesting seeing it from her angle. For 30 plus years she actually lived a horror movie. I'm still hopeful for the Twilight Zone though!

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    1. Yeah also the military that was dispatched... That news footage was so stupid them just standing there and no one taking them out

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  4. Why she didn't try to escape is the first thing that came to mind too. If she was from the real world, wouldn't she eventually find her way out like the clone did?

    I enjoyed this overall but it is one of those movies that you think too much about it, it will start to come apart. I liked the subtle humor though. I think a lot of people make jokes in hard situations to make themselves feel better so when the husband and daughter kept doing it, I think it felt pretty realistic.

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    1. Right? It's just a massive plot hole

      Yeah I get that but this was practically all they did and it didnt really mix well with some of the dark stuff in the movie

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  5. I will not watch this movie (I don't like horror films), but I was curious to see what the fuss is about, so I read your spoilery review. It sounds interesting, and I am curious to see how the metaphors were created. Too bad the script didn't deliver.

    Also, regarding Get Out, do you think I can see it? Is it horror? or more like thriller?

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    1. Yeah they are both more like thriller but because of some sci-fi elements they are considered horror. They don't have much violence - it isn't shown on screen in great detail - and practically no jump scares, so you should check them out especially Get Out!

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    2. I probably will. It's not the blood or violence that I don't like, it's the scares. Thanks!

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    3. I think you'll like Get Out, it's so clever!

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  6. I finally got to see Us yesterday, and your review is spot on! Like you said, there were several plot points that didn't add up upon scrutiny. But I appreciated the original concept. And atmospherically, it was truly intense!

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    1. Yeah it was very intense! If only Peele thought about the story more

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  7. I definitely appreciate the original concept like Jade said above. I actually really enjoyed this one, although not as much as Get Out. All your points are super valid though...I can't deny that. I went in with super low expectations though...maybe that influenced me?

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    1. I think so, I was expecting another Get Out and ended up being disappointed :/

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  8. it's so HARD keeping from your reviews when I have yet watched the movie. but I've seen it last week, logged it in letterboxd and here I am - got the same impression as you. caught the twist miles against the wind. it wasn't much going on here, sadly. Nyong'o was INSANE though, so good.

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    1. Yeah she was great! but I still found Colette in Hereditary somehow more impressive

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    2. definitely! everything about her was so authentic and relatable.

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  9. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this movie and the scenario it provides, partially because it is so fascinating and partially because a LOT of the logistics just don't make sense, especially travel like you mention. It didn't hurt my enjoyment of the movie any, but definitely caused it to fall apart afterwards, unlike Get Out which only becomes stronger the more you watch and think about it.

    I'm SO GLAD you also think that Adelaide definitely knows what's going on the whole time - I've seen a lot of people saying that she doesn't remember until the end when the movie shows us what really happened, and the more I think about it, the more it's ABSOLUTELY clear she knows and has always known. It's there in that look on her face when Red and her family sit them down in the living room. She absolutely knows what's happening, she knew it could happen one day, and she is desperate to hang on to what she has - she is NOT going back down there.

    I actually think the trailers were JUST oblique enough in presenting the imagery largely devoid of context that I wasn't spoiled. But then, I never screenshotted and analyzed the trailer like some people do hehe.

    The cast is great, the craft work is all great, but you're right. The script falls down in having Red explain EVERYTHING to us, but leaving just enough things unspoken that are actually problems in the logistics of it. I also think that long monologue took a lot of the horror out of it for me. I wasn't scared of Red and her family after that, which took it away from being a horror movie a bit, and feeling more like a thriller. It ended up not having that wild "anything can happen" feeling that I had with Get Out.

    All that said, I still enjoyed it. An 8 feels about right (Get Out is a 9, maybe even a 10). Great analysis, as always!

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    1. Exactly! I'm surprised that people think she didn't know. That's because Peele didn't pull it off well - that flashback is for the audience's benefit. I'm sure there was a way to do it in a slightly more sophisticated manner.

      Get Out is really close to 10 for me. It's such an incredibly well written movie, it's a shame Peele screwed up the script so bad here. There are just way too many plot holes to give him the benefit of the doubt, the writing was just lazy

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  10. I finally saw this yesterday and I agree with everything you said, but I loved it despite its many flaws. And Lupita, that woman is insanely good!

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  11. Good review! I liked the music choices and occasional humor. Agree about the half-bakedness, the two sides fight but the plot is more of a situation than a plot.

    I missed the twins/Shining homage! MJ did a sort of 'Hands Across America' in music video for "Cry",I don't know if Peele (when making Us) was aware of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj3MfUR35CM

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    1. Thank you!

      The homage was with the dead twins in the hallway, it was really spot-on!

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  12. Finally saw this. And I just had to come read your review after getting a draft of mine down. I knew it would be good, but… daaaaamn, do you have a photographic memory or something? It must be how my brain is wired, there were so many things you wrote here that I just plain missed or don't remember. Reading your movie analysis stuff honestly makes me feel stupid.. Like, how the fuck did I miss THAT much?? Or forget that much?

    And your ability to pick the meaning of certain moments, specifically (what i couldn’t work out) why they were doing the hand to hand ‘across america’ thing. It seems so obvious now. The Trump wall thing didn’t pop into my head at all though, I reckon there is something else to it as well as what you mentioned.

    I liked the story - sure it didn't make a whole lot of sense but when its a fantasy type world I don't really pick holes in the logic unless they are truly gaping, on the verge of ‘goofs’. Funny what you said about the guns hehe, maybe Adelaide didn’t want them in the house knowing what going to happen there ;)

    I am glad you mentioned the comedic moments from the rest of the family. The script certainly wasn't the best, but yes yes YES they act like it is a horror parody/comedy, those stupid jokes killing the atmosphere. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the music - that particular Beatles song during what was going on was funny in a dark way… but I didn’t want it to be funny!! And god, the fuck the police song…. Those two songs ruined that whole section for me.

    Looking at what I have written for my ‘review’, I really do feel dumb, like I need to see it again to pick up stuff or something

    I don’t know how long this took you but goddamn you are really fucking good at this sati. I always love reading your movie stuff like this. I wish you did it more often!

    PS - so I’m guessing you had the script somehow? Is that how you were able to pick up so much stuff? Whatever it is you have a freaking awesome deal being able to read scripts. That is supremely awesome. I envy thee!!

    Sorry, I’ll shut up now. Again, amazing work

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    1. I have pretty good visual memory yes, I remember so much from seeing/reading and not that much from hearing stuff.

      The thing is though you have to have some rules of the universe in the fantasy world, some internal logic. This didn't have it.

      That's The Beach Boys, my man :D

      Thank you! I wish I did it more often too but unfortunately I just don't have the time. I didn't have the script for this one. Righttt I was supposed to send you some stuff, you need to remind me on twitter otherwise I won't remember :/

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    2. That is interesting in how your memory works. Very different from mine, if I don't write a review instantly after I see it I'll forget it, its that bad. Hence, I still don't have an Us review.... hopefully it hits the internet soon

      Hehe I can't remember which scripts I asked you for!! I'll hit you up on twitter about that. I don't suppose you have some sort of list of what you have? Also, how many years back do they go. There are some early 2010 flicks I'd love to read the scripts of.

      Hehe and yeah my father corrected me on that song, he slapped me up the back of the head and said 'that is the Beach Boys you twat!!' Hehe, my father and I have a cool relationship

      A first reminder :P = do you have the script to The Babadook, The Witch or Inside Llwelyn Davis?

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    3. It's out on itunes in less than a month :)

      If I don't have something I can always get it, especially if it's already been released. I'll send you DM once I get those three and put them on my dropbox

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