Jordan Peele’s highly anticipated second feature film “Us” has received mixed reactions after the overwhelming success of his first film, “Get Out” (2017). The film’s narrative is chock-full of everything we could have hoped for from Peele: guised metaphors, complex characters and challenging social commentary.
Many viewers were surprised, and possibly disappointed, that this film doesn’t directly discuss race. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Peele explicitly said that the film is not an attempt at overt racial commentary, but rather a larger social commentary framed through a black cast.
“Very important for me was to have a black family at the center of a horror film. It’s also important to note that this movie, unlike ‘Get Out,’ is not about race. It is instead about something I feel has become an undeniable truth. That is the simple fact that we are our own worst enemies,” Peele said.
The importance of this choice, to feature a black family in a horror film without making it about race, is proven by many audience members’ surprise. While racially-centric narratives are important and need to be produced, Peele has already proven a master at tackling the topic. In this film he asks more from viewers, subverting the idea that he is limited to “black films” and normalizing this dynamic on a larger scale.
While still inciting the fear created by classic horror film tropes, Peele is in the process of developing his own auteur. The movie leaves its audience with questions about society and self which will follow them out of the theater. The cognitive disturbance created by the film is paired with his inclination towards comedy which, while also acting as a palate cleanser, make the movie’s horror more realistic.
Lupita Nyong’o shines in this film. Nyong’o plays Adelaide, as well as Adelaide’s duality, with an air of provocation. This turbulent and highly emotional role is elevated by Nyong’o’s ability to capture the dynamic layers of human experience and emotion. She delivers the power of the elusive and austere while also showing the tenderness and fear of her character’s trauma and sense of duty.
This movie attempts to take on an overwhelming amount of messages within the confines of two hours, which makes some moments not as tight and refined as his first feature. However, this does not negatively affect the importance and impact of his film. Not only does he challenge his audience’s understanding through storytelling, but he is actively challenging our preconceived notions of Hollywood. The film raises many questions about what we expect, and more importantly what we need, from a Peele film, allowing it to transcend the screen and incite social change.
Even if it didn’t meet audience expectations, this film gives its viewers plenty to unpack. If anything, this film reinstills that Peele’s creative force allows him to create content which is visually compelling and emotionally challenging in a way that subverts social constructions around the human experience.