Us by Jordan Peele

Jordan Peele’s “Us Go Home” is, in a sense, two films lined up side by side. The first is an extended gag, a brutal joke at the expense of the middle class American’s greatest fear, namely that their success and privilege has ironically made them weaker, that there’s always someone waiting in the wings to steal away what you have, no matter how successful you are. Our culture encourages us to project these fears out on to ostensibly sinister foreign powers (China! Russia!) or on to immigrants and refugees, and so Peele’s punchline comes as a bit of a surprise. When we finally encounter the violent doppelgangers of our protagonists, the Wilson family, their leader is asked what they are, to which she responds “We are Americans.”


Its at this point that the film shifts and becomes something more than a joke. Jordan Peele switches from satirizing middle class paranoia to confirming it, but with the caveat that the killer is already inside the house or whatever. For much of America’s history we have been taught to fear the other, but what happens when the other is us? Yes, there is indeed someone waiting to steal your life away from you, but only because it was built atop their misery.


The juxtaposition of these two pieces is jarring and the stitching is sloppy, but while the mechanics don’t necessarily impress, this structural gambit ends up paying off; there is an immediacy to the ideas that makes some of the script’s shortcomings and the perfunctory nature of its humor (most of the jokes would feel at home in a network sitcom) melt away. As such, it is a film that is a bit more fun to think about than it is to watch, often feeling as if Peele concocted his thesis, then reverse engineered a script from it. The final twist does a lot of work to sell Peele’s point (regardless of background, money and the comfort it affords us tends to come packaged with an allegiance to the state and its war on people further down the class hierarchy) but it makes everything that came before feel superfluous and ill-considered. It isn’t particularly useful to address a film via the CinemaSins method, but Us requires substantial suspension of disbelief, which becomes harder and harder as the runtime drags. It is almost as if Peele knew he was onto something smart and great, and got bored of having to wait to pay it off, instead, cutting corners and leaping over logic so as to reach his ultimate point sooner.


But what a point it is! It is perhaps a bit corny to over assess the title’s various implications, but its most essential is the way in which it asserts Peele’s vision as a general assessment of an American populace, without reference to political party allegiances or religions or the like. In different hands this could play as glib, but it's actually a productive tact for Peele to take, one that allows him to admit that while he cannot predict the details of the country’s future, he’s confident in what the endpoint will look like. The American government loves to stoke the xenophobic fears of our citizenry, but their is a rift at home, vicious class violence that receives no attention from the middle class beyond fetishization. Who can say where the revolution will start and what their pet issues will be, but it will swell up from within American borders and their grievances will be righteous. There’s much debate over whether this film fulfills the tenets of a comedy or a horror film, but it's more melancholy than anything else, a predestined tragedy of sorts, the fantastical horror elements simply middle class defense mechanisms come to life.