Given the success of Jordan Peele’s Get Out, I looked forward to Us with a certain amount of anticipation. Pardon me for a moment, but I am going to sound like a huge nerd. Whether anyone realized it or not, Get Out was brilliant because it tapped into a very old idea in this country: the longing of white people to be like black people. In the nineteenth century this was seen in the popularity of minstrelsy, and in recent decades it is proved by the high record sales for rap music in suburbia. So often throughout our history this has played itself out in the worst possible ways, and Get Out demonstrated this to the highest degree. Even though most viewers might not have been thinking of these philosophies, there is enough of a subconscious cache that made it truly creepy and smart despite the inevitable bloody end. The problem with Us, though, is that Jordan Peele did not seem to understand what made Get Out interesting.
Us is basically a slasher film. I guess there was some kind of attempt to elevate the material by making the antagonists victims of the nebulous plan of the main character, Adelaide Wilson/Red (Lupita Nyong’o), to get revenge on her “tether,” as the movie called them. What does that mean? I am not entirely sure, but the best I can tell is that there is a copy of every person in the United States that has been living underground. When Adelaide was a child, she had gotten switched with her copy, a big twist at the end which was supposed to be a big deal, but fell flat in this reviewer’s opinion. Thus she got all the copies to decide to eventually come out of hiding to kill everyone above ground and, get this, finally unite in an actual Hands Across America. Remember that movement from the 1980s? No? Well, it did not matter because it was not the point of the film.
In fact, I was not really sure what was the point of Us. To be fair, it was well acted and filmed. But at the end of the day, there really was no “aha” moment to make you see something deeper being revealed like with Get Out. And while suspenseful, and I wanted to see the Wilson family survive, I found myself getting more disgusted as Us went on. The moment I realized that it had lost me was when the Wilsons compared how many people they had each killed. There were children gleefully committing violent acts. It was supposed to be comedic relief, but because of the violence of the film to that point, I just found it to be in extremely poor taste.
I would like to take this a step further and say that my viewing of Us was one of the most disturbing movie going experiences of my life. It was not just the ridiculous premise making a bad movie, but it was the audience with which I saw it. I have never felt so disconnected to humanity as while sitting in the theater and watching this film. There was hysterical laughing from far too many people in the crowd at the bloodiest and most murderous moments. I wanted to get up and scold my fellows. When I go to Confession this weekend, I fully intend to discuss this with the priest. In the meantime, I strongly urge you not to see Us.