By Megan Bianco
Seven years after the comedy duo Key & Peele made their hit Comedy Central debut on cable, one of the two has emerged as a successful horror film mastermind.
Jordan Peele is a funny guy, and his comedic roots come through in his earlier feature-film effort Get Out (2017) and especially in the new Us. But can he really, legitimately make the crossover to dramatic work?
His Oscar-winning screenplay for Get Out proved most thought he could, but there’s always a lot of pressure in that first effort. My go-to example of this type of situation is Zach Braff, who became popular on the sitcom “Scrubs” (2001-10), got a big reception for his directorial debut in Garden State (2004), and then faded. With Peele though, Us fortunately proves his career definitely has some mileage.
The film starts in 1986 and occasionally goes back and forth between that year and 2019. The protagonist is suburban mom Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) who is secretly dreading her family going on vacation to Santa Cruz, which is where she had a traumatic incident three decades earlier as a child. Her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) thinks she’s overreacting and promises everything will be fine. But then the complete opposite happens as soon as the sun goes down.
Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker co-star as Adelaide and Gabe’s close friends and fellow parents. Marvel fans will notice Us is Nyong’o and Duke’s second film together after Black Panther (2018), and they are even better here.
Peele, though an Oscar winner for his writing, is more appropriate in the director’s chair. The visuals, soundtrack cues and performances are top notch. If I had to nitpick one casting flaw, it’s that the little girl who plays Adelaide in the flashbacks doesn’t look like Nyong’o.
The pop culture homages, political metaphors and satire on modern culture are clever and not too gimmicky for the most part. The third act may feel like it gets a little hazy with the plot twists, but the stellar second act mostly makes up for it. And when you ponder the ending for the rest of the day, it might actually, retrospectively, be worth it.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.
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