Friday, April 12, 2019

US (2019) movie review

Us (2019) d. Jordan Peele (USA) (116 min)

“A family's serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgangers appear and begin to terrorize them.” That’s the high concept behind writer/director/producer Peele’s second feature film and it’s a solid enough premise that is ultimately submarined by a nebulous third-act explanation that raises more questions than it answers. The “twinning” gambit has been done before (and more effectively) in films such as Plus One (aka +1) and Coherence, and whereas Get Out’s social commentary was seamlessly woven into its narrative fabric, here Peele trowels it on at the expense of logic and storytelling.

The first half is solid, with fine performances by Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, and young performers Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph ably selling the familial/friendship bonds until their mirror-image “tethers” show up on their doorsteps to stalk and slash. It’s only when the film attempts to become something more “significant” that things come up short. (I defy anyone to justify the “Hands Across America” device as something that drives the plot as opposed to a Big Symbol.) I absolutely support and encourage more writers and directors of color to project their diverse genre nightmares onscreen, but I’m somewhat surprised at the acclaim this one has been getting, especially with the elevated expectations that should (rightfully) accompany a Best Screenplay winner’s next effort.


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