Jordan Peele is part of the comedy team of Key and Peele, who I think are just about the funniest duo since Fry and Laurie. This is the first movie he has written and directed, and it could not be further removed from the sketch comedy they do. Every once in a while a movie comes along that’s not quite like anything you have ever seen, and this is one. Which sounds a little weird, because I could also say it is sort of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner meets The Stepford Wives. No kidding!
Daniel is a black man whose new white girlfriend is taking him home to meet her parents, the doctor Dad and psychiatrist Mom. This could be awful, but they are rich liberals and make it clear that it makes no difference to them. And yet … there is something just a little bit off about them. Then there is a gathering of their friends, all white, all of them of the “some of my best friends know someone who knows someone who knows a black person” type. They deliver odd statements and seem unaware that they might appear condescending, or too eager to “put him at ease.” The golfer, for instance, knows Tiger Woods! And of course he has to mention it.
If Mom and Dad and friends seem a little strange, their black servants, a gardener and a maid, are flat-out weird. I wouldn’t say zombie-like, but the maid smiles too much and seems too happy, and the gardener doesn’t know how to fist-bump.
I won’t say any more about the plot. If you are white (and I expect the majority of you are), ask yourself this: How many times have you been the only white person in a crowd of black people? For myself, I can’t think of a single time. The only white person? Never. You know that, for upwardly-striving black people, it happens to them all the time. And they must wonder a lot, am I the token Negro? Also, what do some of these people really think of me? This film delivers on the sense of paranoia that Peele certainly knows too well, how black people feel when in a sea of white faces. Would they like to enslave me? Lynch me? Burn a cross in my yard? Is there a white hood in the dryer? Peele has made a genuinely scary film here. We liked it a lot.