Us, written and directed by Jordan Peele, is a film with an initial concept that’s so interesting, and a first act that has you so tense, that it draws you into an experience that you prepare to be eagerly unsettled by. But the more the film progresses and the more it unravels, the less I found myself wanting to engage with it or even care about it. Peele certainly has a distinctive style and is still a creator that I find myself excited to see more from, but when it comes to his films, I still find myself struggling to connect with his writing or his directing. I’m really interested to talk about Us, so let’s be done with the introduction and make our way into the review.
Adelaide Wilson – played by Lupita Nyong’o – and her family go on holiday to Santa Cruz for what is expected to be a serene getaway for them all. However, things take a nasty turn on their first night when their doppelgangers appear in their drive-way and begin tormenting them. A simple family holiday soon turns into a nightmare that will change them all irrevocably.
The first act of Us really had me excited. The developing dynamic we are introduced too in the Wilson family is one I happily settled into and enjoyed. Each character had their particular characteristics that made them easy to get to know and connect with, and there was a light-heartedness to the film that I found inviting, despite there being this creeping tension just lurking off to the side. Everything had me thinking I was finally seeing what everyone else seemed to latch onto with Peele’s previous films, Get Out (a film that I don’t think was as effective as so many others seem too, but I know I’m in the minority on that).
And when things really kicked off and the terror and the dread was no longer lurking in the background but was now bashing down the front door and unleashing fear throughout the audience around me, I was gleefully sitting there getting myself amped for the oncoming storm of scares and tension.
But just a little bit after that moment, my glee and my tension began to dwindle. There was a point where it seemed like there would have been a clear shift in the tone of the movie and the more humorous tone would be pushed aside for a more terrifying one. But that didn’t happen. Instead, Peele once again tries to blend his comedic mind with his developing horror mind, and in my mind the two just don’t work… yet? When you add to that a villainous character monologing their entire set of intentions and motivations… well let’s just say my once tense, forward leaning posture began to become a disheartened slump.
I went into Us with the hope of watching a smartly unsettling horror experience that had me masochistically smiling at the terror of it all – and with how vocal the audience around me was before the film began (and during some of the first couple of scares) I was also looking forward to experiencing an engaged audience being terrified by the film. But by the second act, none of that really came to be. My experience watching Us was more similar to a comedy film, rather than a horror film and that’s not what I was wanting.
Yes, it can be said that I went into this film with certain expectations and the film didn’t deliver on them, so I admit that my lack of enjoyment with the film is (in part) on me, but I also feel that the mixing of tones that Peele tries – plus his injection of social/political commentary – results in a muddled experience that is trying to do too much and in the end gives way more of what is not needed and not enough of what I think would make for a far more chilling and memorable narrative experience.
Because of how much Peele tries to say with his movies and because there is an intended message with them, I often find the film never allows for expressive interpretation by the audience. For example, Us is quite bad for it at certain points for literally laying everything out for you – usually in an extended monologue – that both rips away any need for the audience to guess the intentions of a character or mysterious plot element and simply delivers every answer to any question you may have had.
After the film had finished, I didn’t feel there was anything left for me to ponder and have stuck in my head. It gave me everything and I didn’t really care for the precise explanations to what could have been some extremely engaging mysteries to tackle personally, or with a group of friends.
The interesting thing with Peele’s films (for me) is that they are in no way bad films. In fact, despite me not really enjoying his films, as a filmmaker and a creator, I find him to be a very giving artist who I still find myself eager to see new projects from. There aren’t many directors who could disappoint me twice and still have me interested to see what they might do next, which I think is a testament to the clear effort and passion that Peele puts into his films.
I mean, if you look at either of his films from through a cinematic lens, there is some incredible imagery and some haunting sound placed within it. There are still images from Get Out that standout in my mind, and Us is much the same. There’s such a clear visual voice to the film and it always had my eyes captivated. I suppose I only wish the whole package could be as well-defined. It seems at this point Peele is an ideas man and less an execution man. I look forward to when he’s a master of both.
Despite not being as enamoured with the film as so many other people once again are with a Jordan Peele film, I still find myself wanting to recommend, Us. There’s something to this film that at least makes it worth seeing (even if only once). I know I want to go back to it with new expectations and see what experience it offers with a second viewing, so that’s what I plan to do. Anyway, I hope you enjoy your time with the film and thanks for stopping by.
I’m really interested to know what you thought of Us, so please sound off in the comments section down below letting me know what your opinions of it and my review of it are. Liked what you read? Maybe you’ll enjoy it in audio form. If so, then head on over too iTunes (https://apple.co/2FUkAhU) Soundcloud (https://bit.ly/2S4sMm6) or Castbox (https://bit.ly/2N7Z6zA) and check out my podcast; ‘The Meandering Movie Podcast’ and delight in the nonsense of two pals getting silly while talking about movies. Thank you so much for checking out my review and I hope to see you return. Have a great day!