Directed by Jordan Peele
Here’s the thing about Jordan Peele ~ he’s so damn smart. And he’s funny. AND, he has something to say.
You gotta love Jordan Peele. If you never watched “Key & Peele,” find it now and watch it. Right away. That is some smart, funny, sketch comedy. And it is thoughtful. Good stuff. Great. Honestly.
If you saw “Get Out,” written and directed by Jordan Peele, then, like me, you most likely felt so pleased for him and proud of him and happy to know him as much as a fan knows the subject of her admiration. I’m pulling for this guy. His success makes me happy.
This was my mindset going into “Us.” Oh boy! Jordan Peele! He’s made another scary movie! I CAN’T WAIT to see it!
So right there was my problem. I sidestepped one of my own cardinal rules of movie going: Don’t get caught up in the hype, even if it is of your own making. See, God love ‘em, movies cannot rise to the hype. They just can’t. So don’t lay a bunch of expectations on a film before you see it (I say to myself). Clear your mind. Go Zen. Start from zero and give the filmmaker a fair shake.
But the previews were GOOD. Fast paced. Menacing. Creepy. Hooray!
So here we go. Reserved seat. Footrest elevated. Lights out…
“Us” begins with lots of weird foreshadowing. Peele sets up – and sets up and sets up and SETS UP – a backstory of sufficiently unnerving detail to put a person on edge, the perfect place to be, right? We don’t know what happened to little Adelaide in that house of mirrors she wandered into, but we know she came out changed – a little ballerina who didn’t want to dance or even talk anymore.
We get that that was back then and this is now and Adelaide seems pretty OK with her family on their way to the very same beach boardwalk for vacation – the one she never mentioned to her husband in all their years together. Even when he said, “Hey let’s spend some time in Santa Cruz,” she didn’t tell him of a trauma so great that you could tell by looking she wasn’t a regular little girl any more. Grown up Addie never said, “Disneyland might be nice.”
So what happens is that we have a series of admittedly unnerving events leading up to and including their family’s very own creepy clones sitting across from them in their living room giving them a lot of exposition about what happened with the shadow people who live in the labyrinth of tunnels (I told you about the tunnels, right? Remember? In the opening text) and are tethered to those of us living above ground.
Well, so you know, they’ve been under there with all the rabbits – did I mention the rabbits? – since back in the day when Little Adelaide drifted in, and they’re pretty upset about things. So they’re joining hands across America and stabbing everyone in an uprising they’ve been planning all this time.
And, to really getcha, we ultimately learn, through another sequence of tortured exposition, that the angry shadow Adelaide who planned all this mayhem is actually the REAL Adelaide who originally strayed into the house of mirrors in the first place. It’s the SHADOW Adelaide who’s been living above ground all this time being pretty normal apparently after some therapy or an epiphany or something where she began talking again.
Now, there are great things about this movie ~ most of it is Lupita Nyong’o. She is chilling in the dual role. That voice! That laugh! Yikes and yikes!
Elisabeth Moss ~ also a little too good on the creep side of things.
Both young actors – Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex – do extremely well too, playing themselves and their own alter selves.
But those performances, nor Peele’s allusions to the division of Americans, nor his tip of the cap to Stanley Kubrick and nod to Rod Serling, are enough to clear the convoluted path to what we were hoping for: a scary story well told.
Love ya, Jordan. Next time don’t try so hard. You’ll do great, I know it.
6 out of 10 Whiskers
Elisabeth Moss in "Us"
Elisabeth Moss in "The Old Man and the Gun" with Sissy Spacek
Sissy Spacek in "JFK" with Kevin Bacon