Director: Jordan Peele
Release date: March 22, 2019
The narrative surrounding the sophomore film from director and writer Jordan Peele, Us,is if it could live up to the success of his Best Picture nominated directorial debut Get Out. Peele took a relatively modest budget of $4.5 million and made over $255 million worldwide with Get Out, bringing in $33 million opening weekend (numbers from Box Office Mojo). With success like that, Peele had the creative freedom to do whatever he wanted with his follow-up. So the question arises: What would one of the hottest new filmmakers do next? How would it compare to the success of his debut?
Peele’s career arc of actor, director, writer, producer is an interesting one. His earliest acting credit is in a video short for Weird Al’s song White and Nerdy. He then went on to be a writer on the not so successful SNL competitor MADTV. Peele is best known for his work as creator and star of his Comedy Central show Key and Peele. Having experience in only television he wrote his first film, Keanu, in which he and his Comedy Central co-star Keagan Michael Key go on a mission to retrieve a kitten that has been stolen from them.
The less famous guy from the Key and Peele Show would then go on to make a thriller/comedy/horror mix genre that would become a cultural phenomenon called Get Out. Successful as his previous work was, the average fan couldn’t have predicted that Peele would go on to make one of the most talked about horror films of the last 10 years. Was this just a flash in the pan or the beginning of a career for one of the most unique and thoughtful directors in Hollywood?
Us is centered on a family of four, the Wilsons, who are on a summer vacation in Santa Cruz. All is well until a group doppelgangers show up at their house to terrorize them. The Wilsons now must fight their “tethered” counterparts for survival.
Lupita Nyong’o steals the show with her duel performance as mother of the family Adelaide and the evil doppelganger Red. Her portrayal of Red is particularly unnerving. Expect her to be in the conversation come awards season for a best actress nod. Winston Duke as the father Gabe is great in providing the comedic relief. These types of characters are becoming a staple for Peele as they are essential in blending the slasher horror with a sprinkle of comedy.
The main theme of Us is unclear as Peele wants viewers to come up with their own takeaway from what the film is trying to say. Of the many themes Peele touches on, most evident is capitalism in America and the treadmill so many are on to keep up with the Joneses. We see it when Gabe regularly makes comments about their friend’s personal belongings and again in a chilling conversation Adelaide has with her counterpart Red in which she describes the cause and effect of their tethered lives. It’s clear that Peele is shedding light on the country’s capitalist mindset and the effects it has on those who aren’t born into privilege.
With Us, Jordan Peele has established himself as one of the hottest filmmakers in Hollywood. In a world that is dominated by movies with rehashed stories and characters in tights, Peele has shown he can deliver original storytelling that will also bring in the big time returns studios are looking for. His use of comedy and horror keeps even the most average viewer engaged while providing deep subtext that can be dissected and debated for the more analytical movie-goer. Us opened at over $71 million opening weekend, it’s safe to say that Peele has lived up to the hype.