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Jordan Peele's US (Read 1292 times)
Apr 7th, 2019 at 7:57pm

L.A. Connection   Offline
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For all it virtues, Jordan Peele's GET OUT's greatest strength may have been its strong focus on getting from its creepy beginning to its finale. All of the social commentary, humor and production values seemed determined to arrive at that conclusion (fumbled a bit, but, that's a different discussion). With US, Peele has chosen a much more indirect route. The end goal may have been clear to Peele, but, the path is much rockier.
Give Peele kudos for ambition. US is chock-full of subplots, subtext and, even a bit of genuine subversion. The basic gimmick seems simple enough. A young girl Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) walks into a funhouse in 1986 and exits a scared and scarred victim of a frightful appearance. Cut to the present and the now adult Adelaide and her husband and two children are going on vacation near that same fateful funhouse. Audiences conditioned by horror films can start to guess what is going to happen next, but Peele continues to toss in curve balls and sliders as US flits from childhood terrors to home invasion thriller to Invasion Of The Body Snatchers riff to Zombie flick.
By the time we get to the conclusion, the audience may be forgiven for feeling a bit worn out, not just by the longish running time (110 minutes), but, by the twisty path US takes to get to the not altogether satisfying conclusion. What keeps the movie afloat is the fine acting by Nyong'o, Elisabeth Moss and Shahadi Wright Joseph (as Adelaide's daughter). Peele stages much of the action well and the other tech credits are solid. While there isn't the deeper vein of humor as found in GET OUT, Peele sneaks in a few choice bits in the margins.
To Peele's credit, he has never been shy about acknowledging his inspirations in his work, whether it be The Stepford Wives for GET OUT, or the Twilight Zone episode 'Mirror Image' here (Peele's revamp of Twilight Zone has just begun airing). Some may also see not only the influence of the aforementioned Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, but, also THE STRANGERS, GREMLINS and even the semi-obscure British horror film DEATH LINE (aka Raw Meat). All filmmakers borrow, of course. Unfortunately, sections of US feel like an undigested collections of themes, storylines and plot points. Without getting into spoilers, I'll just state that the more one thinks about it, the less the basic premise makes sense. Peele tries the trick of avoiding direct explanation of what the hell is going on, but, there's enough there to notice that it doesn't add up.
It is too easy to say that US is Peele's 'sophomore slump'. It's better than that, but, it's still a bit of disappointment.

If nothing else, US answers the question of what an early David Cronenberg (70s era) remake of Penny Marshall/Tom Hanks' BIG would have been like!
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