Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Rob Hunter digs into the Get Out commentary.
Jordan Peele‘s feature directorial debut is both one of the year’s most critically acclaimed films and one of the most profitable. It’s been the subject of numerous think pieces regarding its text, subtext, and possible interpretations, but at its core, the film is an entertaining thriller with comedic elements.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for…
Get Out (2016)
Commentator: Jordan Peele (writer/director)
1. The moment that comes on roughly one-third of all commentaries hits here a mere twenty-two seconds in as Peele suggests your first watch of the movie not be with his commentary playing.
2. His goal with the commentary is to give viewers as much a breakdown of his thoughts as possible. “I won’t be able to catch all of it. I won’t be able to get all of it in one sitting.”
3. “I kind of started with this idea of Halloween,” he says in regard to the look of the opening scene with Andre (Lakeith Stanfield), as a subversion of “the perfect white neighborhood.”
4. He points out a “Shining shout out with the hedge maze line there” at the 1:54 mark.
5. The ominous white Porsche was meant as a nod to Jaws, Christine, and Duel.
6. The helmet worn by Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) while attacking Andre is a Templar helmet referencing the secret society he and his family belong to. “I’ve got a whole mythology and lore about how they are descended from the original Knights Templar” and related to the Holy Grail and its rumored powers of immortality.
7. The light blue of the opening credits are another nod to The Shining. “I totally ganked that.”
8. This is composer Michael Abels’ very first film score. “I chose him because I wanted this score to have a new, different sound.” He asked Abels for “black voices with a sinister sound that’s not voodoo, maybe something that almost sounds like a disembodied or satanic Negro spiritual.”
9. He does not explain why Rose (Allison Williams), with both hands full, chooses to knock on the door with her head instead of her foot. I demand answers.
10. The apartment scenes were filmed in Mobile, Alabama. “It’s meant to feel like Brooklyn.”
11. Hiding “the Rose reveal” was the most difficult part of the film for him. “It’s almost a feat I doubted I could ever really pull off,” he says but gives immense credit to Williams’ performance. They referred to “bad Rose” as “RoRo,” and he thinks Williams is in completely different states of mind depending on which version she’s playing.
12. Rod’s (LilRel Howery) airport scenes were among the first filmed and were shot at a Los Angeles cruise ship terminal. His character is meant as both a release valve for audiences and a grounding for the film itself.
13. It was originally scripted that Chris calls the cops after having hit the deer. Her actions with the cop asking for Chris’ license seem protective and heroic at first, but on second watch you realize she’s actually trying to keep the cop from seeing Chris’ name knowing that he’ll soon be among the missing. “It’s just one of her little, perfect, brilliant, sociopathic moves here.”
14. Part of the reason he wanted Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener (“two of the greats”) for the roles of Rose’s parents, Dean and Missy, was because they’re “sort of liberal elite god and goddess.”
15. A third nod to The Shining is found in Dean’s tour of the house that he gives to Chris. “It just helps with tension, it helps with the terror, and you’re sort of imagining… what context are we gonna see this house in later.”
16. The first appearance of Georgina (Betty Gabriel) is “basically seeing The Shining twins down the hallway, or when we first meet Hannibal Lecter. Just the whole vibe of coming up on somebody waiting for you patiently is creepy.”
17. The Jesse Owens story – Owens beat Dean’s father to race in the Olympics – is meant as the origin of this family’s ghoulish efforts over the decades. “[He] was physically beat by a black man on the world stage, and he never got over it. He became obsessed with this idea that black people have more God-given advantages, and that combined with the white man’s determination you could make the perfect being.”
18. He says on second viewing it becomes clear that the visible annoyance between Missy and Georgina is that of a wife and her mother-in-law. “I’m sure they hate each other.”
19. Williams told him at one point that she wanted to practice the love scene because she was uncomfortable with some of the details, “so I went out, very nervously, to the house she was staying in to literally rehearse this love scene with her and Daniel. I was so uncomfortable, and of course I got there and it was a surprise party for me. At which point I realized of course Allison Williams is not fucking nervous to do a fucking love scene after what she’s done on Girls.”
20. Walter’s (Marcus Henderson) appearance running at the Chris – and at the camera – is a nod towards the power of depth in films. He references North by Northwest as an example saying “somebody running at you or towards you just creates a visceral and physical reaction for the audience.”
21. One of Peele’s favorite scenes in the film is the sit-down between Missy and Chris where she hypnotizes him. Both actors do great work with Kaluuya’s performance standing out in particular, but the hypnosis angle is one of the film’s few negatives for me as a viewer. Interestingly, Peele actually addresses some of my concerns here. He references the Clarice/Hannibal face-offs in The Silence of the Lambs where he gets inside her head as an inspiration for the scene saying “I wanted Chris and the audience to know that this was a trap, that this was a setup, that there’s no way you can allow yourself to be hypnotized, and no self-respecting black man would in this situation, but even with that for Missy to be one step ahead of Chris and the audience.” I’m fully on-board with the intention, but for me – and only for me judging by the universal praise the film continues to receive – hypnosis just feels too damn easy.
22. He hopes “Now you’re in the sunken place” becomes a classic line. “It’s so weird and twisted.” An inspiration for the place is that moment sometimes just as you’re falling asleep where it feels like you’re falling but you jerk back awake. “Well what if you never caught yourself? Where would you fall?”
23. Some viewers don’t realize that Logan is actually Andre from the film’s opening. “I think that’s testament to Keith’s range and his acting, um and also, that, you know, we’re not necessarily trained to uh differentiate uh black people as a culture, but us that’s just me trying to be woke up in here.”
24. He was worried the blind art dealer (Stephen Root) was “maybe a little over the top but ultimately realized was just over the top enough.”
25. The specifics of the auction are kept to a minimum regarding how and what people are paying to be a part of the Red Alchemist Society, but he reveals that per the lore he created for the film “the Knights Templar were collectors of antiquities and treasures, so I have it in my mind that they trade amongst each other these relics and artifacts.”
26. RoRo is “probably” his favorite character in the movie. “This is some crazy sick bitch villain shit, I don’t even know.”
27. A fifth Shining nod comes after Chris is captured and, “much like [Dick] Halloran in The Shining” the film cuts to Rod’s situation before bring the two together.
28. He describes the room Chris wakes up in bound to a chair as “some kind of evil feng shui,” and it’s one they found in Mobile.
29. The scene where Chris is tied down and made to watch the sales pitch video was originally written to just have Chris listening to James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” on repeat, but he changed it when he realized he couldn’t afford the song.
30. He didn’t realize until they were both on set that the little boy playing young Jeremy was so much shorter than the girl playing young Rose. It doesn’t make much sense, but “first movie, you can’t really fire a little kid for not being tall enough.”
31. The Coagula intro video was “ripped” from the Dharma Initiative videos on Lost “where you just get this sense that oh my god, there’s this produced thing, it goes so deep, we’re just at the tip of the iceberg!”
32. He recalls asking Williams if she was up for a challenge he wasn’t sure could even be accomplished regarding the scene where Rod speaks to her on the phone. “Can you give me RoRo’s face and expression but Rose’s voice with all the inflection and character?” he asked, and he was thrilled to see her deliver beyond what he even hoped for.
33. Williams would prepare for up to forty five minutes before playing a scene as evil Rose, and “if you got near her when she was in RoRo mode you would be creeped out.”
34. His goal with the scene where Jim Hudson (Root) speaks to Chris over the TV was meant “to play like… The Matrix when Morpheus just simply tells you what the Matrix is.”
35. Yes, the irony of picking cotton being what saves Chris from slavery was intentional.
36. The special case holding the special surgical tools was simply a poker chip box that they converted. “Sorry, you can’t unhear that.”
37. He says he’s worked out all of the elaborate details of the cult all the way back to their origin, but we only get a tease here. “On another DVD I’ll take you through the history of the Red Alchemist Society,” he promises, but I think he’s lying to us.
38. He debated going the Kubrick route with the commentary “so that years to come people are trying to piece together the mysteries of fucking Get Out,” but he decided to “nerd out” instead and share as many details as he possibly could. Well, minus the details about the Red Alchemist Society…
39. He says “woke” seven times throughout the commentary.
40. Peele points out the following images/moments as foreshadowing or motifs:
- Andre says “suburb” in a stereotypical white voice foreshadowing his later reappearance with a white man inside him.
- Mirrors and glass are big motifs throughout the film.
- The opening credit font foreshadows the font in the Coagula video later on.
- Chris’ first appearance sees him putting white shaving cream on his face.
- Chris cuts his face while shaving which foreshadows the danger he’s in.
- The “black mold” in the basement foreshadows what happens to black people in the basement.
- The stuffed lion references both the idea of the predator and of Christ, but it’s also part of a motif involving white and black people being lions and tigers. (“Two species in the same animal kingdom or something, but whatever that’s a little bit of a stretch.”)
- The buck on the wall references both the term used to describe strong black men and the opposite of the doe they hit on the road.
- “White milk, colored cereal, chocolate straw.”
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“The lead character is woke. He’s not an idiot. He’s gonna be making the right decisions, to an extent.”
“There’s no need to fuck with anything in the forest.”
“So much is going on, I’m just trying to keep up here.”
“I often describe the movie as The Stepford Wives meets The Help.”
“Even the way he’s moving here is so freaky to me. It’s like he’s imagining riding this guy.”
“I found it very difficult to find a Japanese actor in Alabama.”
“The sunken place is a metaphor for the marginalization of the black horror movie audience. We are a loyal horror movie fan base, and we’re relegated to the theater, not on the screen.”
“A lot of this movie was created to get favors from the TSA moving through the airport.”
Get Out remains a highly entertaining thriller, and Peele marks himself as a filmmaker to watch. That carries over to his commentary too as he delivers a track filled equally with enthusiasm and information. He’s a fun listen, and in addition to anecdotes and revelations he offers up explanations for the choices he made, accolades for his cast and crew, and a clear affection for the horror genre. I look forward to not only watching more films from him but to listening to their commentary tracks too.
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