Jordan Peele has done it again, kinda. I remember seeing Get Out two years ago and being completely shocked at the movie’s plot twist. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you change that. This past month writer-director-producer Jordan Peele’s highly anticipated, complex follow up to his Oscar-winning 2017 debut US came out. WHEW. I honestly don’t even know where to begin or end. The film is overflowing with easter eggs, pop culture references, allegories, and suspense. Let’s dive right in and start to Peel the layers of this film.
Peel, Peele, Get it ? Haha Sorry, had to sneak in one dumb joke..
Attentionnnnnnn, everything after this is spoiler soaked. Leave now or forever hold your peace you ruined the movie for yourself.
I love movies and my favorite thing to do is read reviews before I head to the theatre to see a film. I read Every. Single. Review for said film. I’m pretty anal and love to go in knowing what to expect so I won’t be disappointed. I go see great films eager to see what stunned commentators, bad films to get a laugh out of it, and everything in between knowing pretty early on how it’ll make me feel. This time, I did nothing of the sort. I wanted my brain to be a blank sponge to fully soak it in and come up with my own opinion. It’s been over a month and my mental gears are still churning trying to fully connect the pieces. Let’s see what I’ve got so far…
The film is seemingly about your average likable middle class family’s summer vacation that gets hijacked by evil doppelgängers. Once you’ve scratched the surface you come to realize that Peele is telling Americans to wake the hell up. He summarized the film by saying “ This film is about this country and when I decided to write this movie, I was stricken with the fact that we are in a time where we fear the other: whether it is the mysterious invader that we think is going to come and kill us and take our jobs, or the faction that we don’t live near that voted a different way than us.” Guess it makes sense that it’s title is also the acronym for the United States. The best part about this film is how every seemingly mundane detail is actually very very very important. Blink while watching and you might miss out on a lot of it.
The film begins in 1986 with a young girl watching a Hands Across America advert on a shelf that also has a couple VHS tapes. Now if you’re a millennial like myself, you probably were wondering what the heck is that? Think We Are The World but much much less successful with less famous people. Oh, and hand holding literally that would magically raise $50 million to help the less fortunate. It made $15 million and funny enough, unfolded in 15 minutes as well. Now, if you paid attention you now realize it also took 15 minutes for our young protagonist to end up missing, 15 minutes before the police were going to show up, and 15 minutes for Micheal Jackson’s Thriller video( which inspires a lot in this film). Probably isn’t a coincidence that the number 15 spiritually represents steady flow of energy, power, and cooperation. I guess Peele is trying to tell us we need to stop being America the divided.
The young girl is now on a boardwalk with her parents on her birthday. Her father wins her a Micheal Jackson t-shirt and she then proceeds to walk off as he’s too transfixed by wack-a-mole. She walks past an eerie homeless guy towards the beach and discovers what appears to be an abandoned house of mirrors and terrifyingly runs into her doppelgänger. She eventually gets found, shook as hell and is too traumatized to talk at first.
Suddenly we cut to present day, much brighter cheery and the theatre fills with hums of Janelle Monae ( the music in this film was on POINT. okkurr) blasting through the radio. We are accompanying the Wilson family as they drive towards that same beach we saw earlier to meet their friends. They then start jamming along to I Got 5 on It, first of all why does this queen not posses any rhythm??? Why they got homegirl snapping off beat?? The queen in question is the young girl who has now has grown into a beautiful woman, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) and is married to Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) they are joined by their teenager named Zora( Shahadi Wright Joseph) and a young son named Jason (Evan Alex). Once there, we meet the Tylers who are composed of plastic surgery obsessed airhead Kitty( Elizabeth Moss, dickhead alcoholic Josh (Tim Heidecker) and Mean girl twin sisters. We get hit with a couple scares and jumps but nothing too spicy. Now’s the point where I’m antsy and casually chewing popcorn. Not enough gore, action or fear for my eyes yet.
They go home to have a nice typical all -American family type of night in when Jason randomly declares theres a family in the driveway. This family turns out to be their doppelgängers. Nowwww luckily the trailer prepared me for this so I’m still chilling as I casually watch our bootleg family intimidate the Wilson’s. Goofy Gabe tries to scare them off which doesn’t work. In comes the family as Jason exclaims “its us” they declare that to be incorrect, they are not them. They are not bootleg. They are Tethered. T E T H E R E D. Throw some respect on them. In case you don’t know, tethered refers to a strong bond/tie to an entity that limits one’s movements.
Red, Adelaide’s tethered is creepy. She gracefully glides in but begins a raspy, spurted monologue explaining their miserable origin as a failed underground experiment by the above ground government to control all of us humans. They had to move in slow motion mimicking their above ground clones and only had rabbits. GROSS, mind you a rabbit only diet would kill you, but okay Jordan Peele just f*** nutritional logic, huh. Their existence has been miserable and they are tired. TIRED, okay?! So they all magically copped matching red jumpsuits – maybe Peele is alluding to the prison system and how they’re miserable (prisons are like free slave factories for the gov. Btw)- and decided to pull up to kill their soulful human counterparts utilizing their sharp scissors they got every holiday and borrowing Micheal Jackson’s thriller glove. How Crafty.. Eye brow raised, but the gold shiny scissors represent duality. They have perfect symmetry. You can’t have a scissor, you have to have a pair. Like our movie characters. The glove seems to allude to the idea of being individual and untethered. They plan on doing this by killing the Wilson’s using the scissors to figuratively and literally cut the tie.
Obviously by now you’ve realized this review has instead turned into a recap. Completely accidental. Just had to take a second to tell ya’ll this movie did not start of like your typical film. To find out how it ends, you’re going to have to drag yourself to the movies. It is worth the trip. For those of you who’ve seen it already, you’re still probably trying to wrap your head around the ending and symbolism. Luckily for you, I did all the leg work in obsessing over the teeny, tiny details. My only only criticism(trust me it’s hard to type this but I got to be honest) is I feel as though Peele sacrificed a chunk of the plot in order to make the film so symbolic. I enjoyed it, but wish it was more tidy and consistent. Overall I give it a 9/10.
Here’s a couple thoughts I had from what I saw.
since I know most of you blinked, went to pee, were late, or whatever I will do you the pleasure of breaking down what was on our dear protagonist’s shelf.
- C.H.U.D which stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers(HELLO, FORESHADOWING) is a movie about cannibalistic almost human monsters who lurk underground and then eventually attack their above ground human counterparts.
- Goonies which I hope you know/seen is also about an underground world. It stars Corey Feldman who Peele has referred to as being the epitome of cool when he was growing up( around the time the beginning the film is set). He’s alluded to again when it’s revealed the film is set in Santa Cruz, like Feldman’s film The Lost Boys which is what Adelaide’s mother is talking about when she utters “ You know they’re shooting a movie by the carousel” as they arrive on the boardwalk.
If you’re like me, you walked out of the theater post-Us, thinking, among other things: What the hell did Hands Across America have to do with anything? That event, a fund-raiser for America’s hungry and homeless organized by the USA for Africa organization, took a total of 15 minutes to unfold. Fifteen minutes: The same amount of time it took for young Adelaide to go missing, the number of minutes it was supposed to take the police to get to the Wilsons’ house, an amount very close to the run time of Michael Jackson’s video for “Thriller,” and how long it took in May 1986 to, allegedly, make the world better for the less fortunate.
Except Hands Across America didn’t make the world better for the less fortunate. There were all kinds of logistical issues associated with organizing it and, ultimately, the 1980s equivalent of holding up one massive Free Hugs sign didn’t raise nearly as much money as hoped. (The total came in around $15 million, rather than $50 million.) But Adelaide, whose last memories of life as a normal kid living in a regular house included watching that Hands Across America promo, never knew how the event played out. She was tucked away from the real world by the time that happened.
Hands Across America sounds like such a stupid idea now — you’re just going to get together and … hold hands? — and admittedly, also sounded pretty stupid at the time.
In Us, the Tethered – who can be interpreted as stand-ins for exactly the kind of oppressed and marginalized people that Hands Across America was intended to help – decide to stage their own version of the event, and it’s actually somewhat successful: The final shot shows a long line of red-jumpsuited figures winding through the mountains.