Saturday, March 23, 2019
Us (2019 film)
Written and directed by Jordan Peele, Us is the story of a family who go on a summer vacation as their time of relaxation is shattered by the presence of their doppelgangers. The film is a psychological horror film that explores a family who meet people who look exactly like them but with elements that are totally different. Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Evan Alex, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Tim Heidecker, and Elisabeth Moss. Us is an eerie and terrifying film from Jordan Peele.
A family travels to Santa Cruz, California for a summer vacation as their bliss is interrupted by people who are their doppelgangers as they would terrorize the family. That is the film’s premise as it’s really more about a woman who is still haunted by a traumatic event at the Santa Cruz boardwalk back in 1986 when she was a kid as she is convinced that her doppelganger is coming after her. The film begins with a sequence in 1986 where this young girl goes into a hall of mirrors place at the Santa Cruz boardwalk where she sees something and has been traumatized since. Jordan Peele’s screenplay does maintain this air of suspense and ambiguity as well as knowing when to use flashbacks as it relates to Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) when she was a child (Madison Curry). Going on a vacation with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), their teenage daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and son Jason (Evan Alex). The first act is about Adelaide and the family arriving to Santa Cruz that is supposed to be fun as they also meet family friends in Kitty (Elisabeth Moss) and Josh Tyler (Tim Heidecker).
When Jason goes to the bathroom, he encounters something strange as it would set things up for what is to come later that night when Adelaide, Gabe, Zora, and Jason discover a family coming into their home as they’re wearing red jumpsuits, a glove in their right hand, and carrying a sharp pair of scissors. The second act isn’t just about Adelaide and her family dealing with their doppelgangers but also other doppelgangers who are trying to wreak havoc. Peele’s script doesn’t just play into Adelaide’s own memories from the past but also the intention of her doppelganger that also includes a warped version of the 1986 benefit event where 6.5 million Americans hold hands to form a human chain that was known as Hands Across America in an effort to fight hunger and homelessness.
Peele’s direction definitely echoes elements of 1980s horror but also elements of Alfred Hitchcock yet Peele aims for something that is atmospheric with a bit of social commentary and humor. Shot on location in Santa Cruz, California and nearby areas including Los Angeles, the film does play into this idea of a family summer vacation where there’s some shenanigans and other humorous moments. Particularly where Peele does play into Gabe trying to show his wife and kids the new boat he bought along with a moment of him in bed wanting to have some alone time with the wife. There are some wide shots in some of the locations including the film’s opening flashback sequence that includes a reference to a 1980s horror classic where the young Adelaide is with her parents (Anna Diop and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) are taking her to the Santa Cruz boardwalk where her father is drunk and playing games with Adelaide being interested in her surroundings leading to the hall of mirrors. Peele’s approach to compositions for these moments are straightforward with its usage of close-ups and medium shots including a family dinner early in the film with Adelaide, Gabe, and the kids.
Once the family meet their doppelganger, Peele does maintain this air of unease into what this family is facing as many of the doppelganger don’t really say a word as a matriarch’s doppelganger would crow into the sky as a way of communication. Yet, it is Adelaide’s doppelganger Red that is able to say something intelligible but with a speech that is chilling. During its second act when Adelaide and her family try to escape, there are these moments of dark humor when the Tylers meet their own doppelgangers where Peele reveal the home they live in is spacious and very modern in comparison to the more quaint and humble home of Gabe and Adelaide. The film’s third act is about the discovery of these doppelgangers and their habitats but also reveal some deep ideas about humanity and identity that also relate to this biblical quote from Jeremiah 11:11. Overall, Peele crafts an unsettling and provocative film about a family’s summer vacation that turns into a nightmare by their doppelgangers.
Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward for many of the exterior scenes in the day while maintaining some low-key lighting and moods for scenes set at night including at the homes of some of the characters in the film as well as the hall of mirrors. Editor Nicholas Monsour does brilliant work with the editing as it doesn’t dwell too much into style in favor of something more straightforward in its presentation along with rhythmic cuts that don’t play too long into scenes with some long shots. Production designer Ruth De Jong, with set decorator Florencia Martin and art director Cara Brower, does fantastic work with the look of the home that Gabe and Adelaide live in along with the home of the Tylers and the hall of mirrors. Costume designer Kym Barrett does terrific work with the costumes as it is largely straightforward with the exception of the red jumpsuits the doppelgangers wear as well as the masks that Jason and his doppelganger wear.
Makeup artist Sabrina Castro does nice work with the look of the doppelgangers in how they’re different from their real selves including what is under the mask of Jason’s doppelganger. Visual effects supervisor Grady Cofer is superb for the look of the doppelganger in scenes with their real selves as well as some set-dressing and material shown on 1980s television in those times. Sound editor Trevor Gates does amazing work with the sound as it help play into the atmosphere of the film as well as small sound effects and such that also build in the tension of the suspense and drama. The film’s music by Michael Abels is incredible with its haunting usage of vocal choirs, bombastic orchestral arrangements, and other eerie pieces that definitely recall some of the work of Bernard Herrmann in his collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock in maintaining a mood and tone for the film as it is a major highlight. The film’s music soundtrack is a wonderful mixture of music ranging from pop, R&B, and hip-hop from acts such as the Beach Boys, N.W.A., Janelle Monae, Minnie Ripperton, Luniz featuring Michael Marshall, Koffee, and Noname with Eyrn Allen Kane and Akenya.
The casting by Terri Taylor is great as it feature some notable small roles from Cali and Noelle Sheldon in their respective roles as Kitty and Josh’s twin teenage daughters in Gwen and Maggie as well as their respective doppelgangers in Io and Nix, Anna Diop and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Adelaide’s parents in the film’s flashback scenes as well as their doppelgangers, and Madison Curry as the young Adelaide as the young girl who encounters something terrifying in her own doppelganger. Tim Heidecker is superb as Josh Tyler as a guy who likes to drink and wear punk rock t-shirts where he is lazy while his doppelganger Tex is just a wild man that is sort of the opposite of Josh. Elisabeth Moss is fantastic as Kitty Tyler as a friend of Adelaide and Gabe who likes to drink and not do much as she plays the typical rich housewife while her doppelganger Dahlia is just fucking insane in terms of her facial expressions and physicality.
Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph are excellent in their respective roles as Jason and Zora as Gabe and Adelaide’s kids with Alex playing the young Jason who likes to wear a mask and do magic tricks while Joseph displays the trait of a typical teenager yet both prove that they can do some things and figure out how to outsmart their doppelgangers where Alex and Joseph both display a creepy vibe into their performances as their respective doppelgangers in Pluto and Umbrae. Winston Duke is brilliant as Gabe Wilson as a typical dad who likes to do silly things and listen to old music as there is a comic element to him but also someone who isn’t willing to take shit from his doppelganger Abraham who has a more intimidating presence due to his size and animalistic physicality. Finally, there’s Lupita Nyong’o in a phenomenal performance as Adelaide Wilson as Gabe’s wife who is still haunted by her childhood memories where she finds herself needing to protect her family while her doppelganger Red is just chilling in her physicality and in her speaking voice as it is truly a career-defining performance for Nyong’o.
Us is a tremendous film from Jordan Peele that features sensational performances from Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke. Along with its ensemble cast, riveting script, eerie visuals, intricate sound, and Michael Abel’s unsettling score. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to showcase its influences but also find ways to create a story that is willing to ask big questions about identity, race, and the faults of humanity. In the end, Us is a spectacular film from Jordan Peele.
Jordan Peele Films: Get Out
© thevoid99 2019