Jordan Peele’s follow up to 2017’s Get Out is one that shows the promise that he has as a filmmaker. Us, although it has some story issues, is enjoyable.
Us follows the Wilson family on their summer getaway to Santa Cruz. It is there that Adelaide Wilson’s past haunts her and, soon, haunts her family. Lupita Nyong’O gives a phenomenal performance as the matriarch of the family, Adelaide Wilson, as well as giving a phenomenal performance as Red, her tether. Winston Duke played her husband, Gabe Wilson, as well as his tether, Abraham. Honestly, I could watch four hours of Winston Duke playing a dad and be happy. He was an absolute joy and a clear highlight of the film. Both child actors went above and beyond my expectations, especially when playing the tethers. Shahadi Wright Joseph, who played Zora, and Evan Alex, who played Jason, were a delight to watch and were terrifying when playing the alternate versions of themselves. All performances in this film were above and beyond anything that I expected.
As for the story, there are some bumps. It feels like Peele has so much that he wants to say, and has waited so long to say it that, when he finally had the opportunity, he shoved everything into one story that didn’t flow as it should. Peele is clearly big on messages. Just look at Get Out; that film was filled with commentary on race and relations and human nature. I expected similar with Us. Certain messages were crystal clear, like we are our own enemies, and we will be the ultimate downfall of ourselves. But, other than those two, I wasn’t quite clear on what else Peele was trying to communicate to the audience. Given, my experiences as a white female in life differ than that of, say, a black female. So I am fully aware that there may have been some things that I missed because they were not intended for me.
I do have a lot of questions about the plot that were not answered in the film. I wish that more time would have been spent on giving us full backstory, so I wouldn’t have left the theater asking “but, why and how?”
My largest frustration in the film, though, comes from the plot twist and its placement. The twist in the film is one that doesn’t really have any impact on the story, other than to shock the audience. It bears no weight on the story itself. Nothing is different than in the beginning of the film in regards to the family dynamic. I also take issue with the placement of the twist. If the twist had been placed during the exact climax of the film, right in the middle of the fight between Adelaide and Red, I feel that it would have made twice the impact and would have added twice the suspense. But, instead, the twist is placed at the tail end of the climax of the film, only causing mild surprise.
Speaking of the climax of the film, the editing and cinematography of this film was beautiful. I can’t think of one shot or one editing choice that was done that I questioned. That part of Us was very well thought out. Peele clearly has a style when using music in his film. He’s very formulaic, as the music choices and song placements in this film are reminiscent of those placements and choices in Get Out.
Although this film has some plot and pacing issues, it’s one that shows the potential that Jordan Peele has as a filmmaker and storyteller. He clearly has things that he wants to say, and I will gladly listen.