Jordan Peele’s “US” left viewers feeling everything but underwhelmed.
While Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” was eerily creepy, his new film “Us” took on the much larger task of commenting not only on racial relations in the United States, but on the nation’s inability to find fulfillment within their souls. Last Friday, Peele’s social commentary-filled horror film hit theaters nationwide.
“Instead of focusing solely on race, Peele meditates on the insecurity and hollowness that accompanies wealth,” wrote Justin Schatz of the Daily Lobo. “There is an arrogance that affluence breeds.”
The film revolves around the Wilson family at their family vacation home, near a beach in Santa Cruz. The mother, Adelaide Wilson, played by the wonderful Lupita Nyong’o, had a horrifying experience here as a child.
In the beginning of the film, we see young Adelaide at a fair with her parents wander off and find a funhouse on the beach. Here, she looks into a mirror but instead of seeing her own reflection, she sees someone who looks like her with her back to her. This experience, we come to find, was not simply one of fear.
When back in Santa Cruz as an adult, Adelaide tries to explain this to her husband, Gabe, played by Winston Duke. She feels there is another version of herself out there that has been trying to get at her, and since they have been on vacation, she’s felt it even more. Though he does not believe her at first, he soon comes to this realization.
As all who have seen the trailer know, there is not just another copy of her but a “tethered” counterpart of each individual in the family. In fact, there is a copy of every American. However, this is not simply a copy, rather it is their soul that is detached yet tethered to their physical earthly body.
“Early on, Peele drops in some text about the existence of abandoned tunnels, mines and subways in the United States… which literalizes the network of safe houses and routes used by enslaved black Americans, turning it into a fantastical subterranean passageway to freedom,” writes Manohla Darlis of The New York Times.
These tunnels are where the souls of the people above ground are actually living, while their unfulfilled selves are living lavishly above ground.
When asked her thoughts on the film, freshman art history major Emily Rooney said “the idea of duality and a mirror self has so many deeper meanings.”
“It’s something that Jordan Peele does a lot by contrasting things, and I think it speaks a lot about the fact that he made the U.S. seem like a city divided among itself,” Rooney said.
Peele effectively used jump scares, thriller scenes and comedy to reach the climax of America losing its soul and identity as a nation by becoming more concerned with the temporary aspects of life. Peele’s plot twists and large metaphors left every person exiting the theater contemplating what they were really searching for in life.
This notion was further pushed by the amazing performance of Lupita as both the mother and Red, her tethered counterpart. The audience believes she is two different people. This act created an even stronger divide between the soul and the body.
Zachariah Ingalls, a freshman political science major, suggested “the soundtrack added both to the suspense and overall humor of the plot as well as gave the movie a modern feel that made it unique.”
Everything from the music to the metaphors was meticulously crafted by Peele. One particularly enticing metaphor was the reappearance of scissors on screen. Scissors are the weapon of choice for the “tethered” — to represent the coming together of the two separate entities of body and soul that are tethered together.
David Edelstein of Vulture said although the movie may fall short due to its attempt to do too much, “when the movie ends, you can rearrange the pieces in your head and appreciate the breadth of what Peele set out to achieve. Social scientists and pundits speak of human society in terms of gaps — in wages, in education, in quality of life.”
Though the movie may have fallen short in aspects such as horror, or developing a backstory, the movie made up in actors, commentary and overall storyline. Peele’s attempt to cover so many issues may have given him a hard time to fit so much in so little time, but nonetheless, all audience members walked away wondering about what they themselves were “tethered” to, and if that had ultimate control over them.