Us

Unpopular opinion: Us is one of the most overrated, overhyped movies to date, and the more I think about it, the more I dislike it. (I eagerly anticipate my friend James’s take on this, since he seems to think this film is the best thing since sliced bread [even if Penicillin was also invented the same year, which is *way* better than easier sandwiches.])

220px-Us_(2019)_theatrical_poster

I was SO excited for this film. I loved Get Out SO much, and that, I truly feel, was deserving of its universal acclaim. It was a perfect, innovative, intellectual film that brought something new and exciting to the horror genre, and executed it brilliantly. Us? I couldn’t have been more disappointed. I still admire Jordan Peele for his mind. I do. And I appreciated the imagery and metaphors. I just think this movie was a garbled mess of too many ideas that didn’t work together, too many things that weren’t explained properly, and so many plot holes I feel another surge in trypophobia coming on. I feel it needed a focus group after this version to report back to Jordan Peele before he released it. Spoilers ahead, but first, the elements I did appreciate before the stuff that’s driving me crazy.

THINGS I LIKED:

The subtle metaphors: the Thriller t-shirt/werewolf mask/Michael Jackson duality; the literal rabbit hole; rabbit ears/scissors; Incy Wincy Spider (and spiders showing up ahead of the Tethered/the song’s spider that climbs up the spout and gets washed down again); Us/U.S. (Hands Across America, “we’re Americans”); the prison-esque uniforms; the younger kid’s obsession with his pyro trick and his doppelganger’s burns; the acting; the explanation of why ‘Adelaide’ had a speech problem that resulted in her being put into dance to express herself; the name Adelaide itself (it’s pretty!); the term “outernet.” (James may have added it to his dad joke repository.)

THINGS THAT MADE ME HATE IT:

  1. Logistics. Where did they get the jumpsuits? And the scissors? Not just any scissors, but beautiful gold pairs for everyone. I want a pair to hang on my wall, but they don’t seem easy enough to come by to be produced in such mass quantities.
  2. Why didn’t they just leave the underground? “There weren’t any armed guards or anything.” – James
  3. The twist that wasn’t a twist. This one was even more obvious than Jigsaw lying “dead” on the floor at the beginning of the first Saw movie. It’s on the bloody poster, for crying out loud.
  4. The government. Why? Why the experiment? Who? When? What for? How? Souls? The explanation for the entire existence of the Tethered was non-existent. And if it was an abandoned government experiment, why were these clones just left to wander about feeding and raising rabbits and terrorizing their counterparts?
  5. Why Hands Across America? I get that it was one of her childhood memories. But why make that your entire purpose as a leader? After the closing scene… now what?
  6. Was this a commentary about “us” being our own worst enemies? About slavery? About imprisonment and institutionalization? Or about government conspiracies and cloning? PICK ONE, JORDAN.
  7. It seemed like it was going the route of the Tethered being the complete opposites of their counterparts, and that the reason our core family were able to survive (because they were good people), while the neighbours, portrayed as uncaring, insecure (I did enjoy doppelgänger Elisabeth Moss’s knife-to-the-face moment echoing the facial nipping and tucking she was so excited about earlier) alcoholics, were not. But nope, let’s introduce a weird government experiment and not explain it AT ALL.
  8. The character development. It seems like the characters are pretty sheltered, due in large part to Red’s “childhood trauma”, but they seem completely unphased by what’s happening. They’re not terrified; Gabe is still making dad jokes, and everyone is totally ready for the end of the freaking world like they’ve experienced it all before. They’re even bragging about their “kill count” like they do this on a regular basis. Also, if Adelaide’s sum of formal education ended around the time she was about five, and with no other forms of intelligent life around her her whole life, how was she able to mastermind this entire operation?
  9. The scene with the Tethered mirroring the actions of those above the surface. Was that really necessary? All I can think of is them miming showering in the hallways and not getting clean, or walking into walls. Where is the line between crude imitation in real-time, and making your own decisions? And why did they only do this in ONE SCENE?
  10. Jeremiah 11:11. This is featured MULTIPLE times. “Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.” Aside from being one more reason I’m an atheist, this concept’s relevance isn’t exactly clear, and it’s hard to tell which meaning Jordan Peele wanted to get across.
  11. I also hated Adelaide’s monologue. It left me feeling even more confused at this point in the film, and nobody should have to listen to what someone else described as “a lawnmower trying to speak English” for more than thirty seconds at any one time.

I feel like this should have been a TV-length episode of something, and should have picked one plot/story/idea to go with and done it well, rather than a feature-length movie with way too many holes and concepts to even be remotely satisfying.

212

A similar premise, executed WAY better, was the Doctor Who two-parter The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People with the “’gangers.” Save yourself $11, and watch that one instead.

4/10

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5 comments

  1. Hey, to each their own! It’s definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I disagree with the criticisms you consider objective problems with the film. I think they were willful, intelligent choices; not the failures of a filmmaker who didn’t care enough to address glaring paradoxes. I think the dream-like sensibility of the film was one of its great strengths, and the key creative choice the sets it apart from other films.

    Most audiences either want an explanation handed to them on a platter, or want a film to be so surreal that no explanation is possible. At the very least, they want a film’s universe to make *sense*. But I’m really enjoying current trend adopted by a handful of filmmakers to resist making a film entirely abstract, but at the same time, not necessarily worrying about everything making sense in terms of the universe of the story. It certainly requires a greater suspension of disbelief, but you couldn’t make a movie like Us (or It Follows) without choosing to create a ‘holey’ universe – the same kind of inconsistent, messy universe as those that exist in our dreams.

    I actually think dropping the line about the government experiment hurt this vibe a little, although not by much. But an explanation wasn’t necessary: the film was about class, deprivation, jealousy, and the expectations placed upon people due to the nature and circumstances of their birth; amongst plenty of other topics adjacent to the above.

    It wasn’t about how a society of clones operated day to day, or about the realistic trauma a family would experience fighting for their lives, or about why the clones didn’t just walk right out of their bunker. It’s a weird story that simply says: the clones exist. They’re here, and these are their grievances. What do we think of these grievances? Does it make sense for a shadow to be jealous of the person who casts it?

    It’s not about government conspiracies, or the question of why this underground slave-class didn’t all just wander up the escalator together. The escalator inside the funhouse basement. Open to any member of the public who wanders in. That’s a prime example of Peele’s desire to make a dreamy film rather than a realistic one. It’s beyond absurd.

    *Of course* the tethered made no sense. The mirroring was more of an idea (shown with an explicit exemplification during the Santa Cruz scene). Clones copying movements don’t result in the births of children genetically identical to those born on the surface; not to mention the fact that *every one of the tethered is mad* – there’s no way they’d be able to feed themselves, much less change a lightbulb, in a vast, abandoned, subterranean bunker.

    More than anything else, the film wants us to think about issues of class in America, provocatively dressed up as creative horror-fiction. I’d encourage people who found themselves getting hung up on the whys and hows of the specifics in Us to simply accept them, and then focus on the picture the film paints. If it doesn’t make sense, that’s not what it’s about.

    Now, you could very reasonably say “that’s a cop out”. And for many directors, it would be. Whether you feel Jordan Peele is one of those directors is entirely up to you.

    1. We’ll agree to disagree! I think “I’m really enjoying current trend adopted by a handful of filmmakers to resist making a film entirely abstract, but at the same time, not necessarily worrying about everything making sense” is where we part ways. Kind of like that type of prose you were enjoying recently that made me angry too 🙂 But I appreciate the discussion!

      PS. ” I’d encourage people who found themselves getting hung up on the whys and hows… to simply accept them…” NEVER. If we blindly accept what’s presented and don’t question things intellectually, are we really any better than the clones? [Waves flag]

      1. I think there’s a difference between accepting what’s presented, and *blindly* accepting what’s presented. In the same way a person might get hung up on certain questions about choices made in a painting, there are no “wrong” discussions or speculations, but there are questions that aren’t relevant to the interpretation of the artist’s specific creative message. There’s recognizing which questions are being answered by an artist, which questions aren’t, and then on top of that, how do you, the viewer, feel about everything?

        I definitely understand disliking movies that don’t want to make sense, and it took me a while to click with (and subsequently appreciate) movies that defied explanation, even within the framework of their own logic.

  2. Hey, to each their own! It’s definitely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I disagree with the criticisms you consider objective problems with the film. I think they were willful, intelligent choices; not the failures of a filmmaker who didn’t care enough to address glaring paradoxes. I think the dream-like sensibility of the film was one of its great strengths, and the key creative choice the sets it apart from other films.

    Most audiences either want an explanation handed to them on a platter, or want a film to be so surreal that no explanation is possible. At the very least, they want a film’s universe to make *sense*. But I’m really enjoying current trend adopted by a handful of filmmakers to resist making a film entirely abstract, but at the same time, not necessarily worrying about everything making sense in terms of the universe of the story. It certainly requires a greater suspension of disbelief, but you couldn’t make a movie like Us (or It Follows) without choosing to create a ‘holey’ universe – the same kind of inconsistent, messy universe as those that exist in our dreams.

    I actually think dropping the line about the government experiment hurt this vibe a little, although not by much. But an explanation wasn’t necessary: the film was about class, deprivation, jealousy, and the expectations placed upon people due to the nature and circumstances of their birth; amongst plenty of other topics adjacent to the above.

    It wasn’t about how a society of clones operated day to day, or about the realistic trauma a family would experience fighting for their lives, or about why the clones didn’t just walk right out of their bunker. It’s a weird story that simply says: the clones exist. They’re here, and these are their grievances. What do we think of these grievances? Does it make sense for a shadow to be jealous of the person who casts it?

    It’s not about government conspiracies, or the question of why this underground slave-class didn’t all just wander up the escalator together. The escalator inside the funhouse basement. Open to any member of the public who wanders in. That’s a prime example of Peele’s desire to make a dreamy film rather than a realistic one. It’s beyond absurd.

    *Of course* the tethered made no sense. The mirroring was more of an idea (shown with an explicit exemplification during the Santa Cruz scene). Clones copying movements don’t result in the births of children genetically identical to those born on the surface; not to mention the fact that *every one of the tethered is mad* – there’s no way they’d be able to feed themselves, much less change a lightbulb, in a vast, abandoned, subterranean bunker.

    More than anything else, the film wants us to think about issues of class in America, provocatively dressed up as creative horror-fiction. I’d encourage people who found themselves getting hung up on the whys and hows of the specifics in Us to simply accept them, and then focus on the picture the film paints. If it doesn’t make sense, that’s not what it’s about.

    Now, you could very reasonably say “that’s a cop out”. And for many directors, it would be. Whether you feel Jordan Peele is one of those directors is entirely up to you.

  3. Not sure if you watched Yesterday, but I took my girl out on her birthday and it was such a lovely work of art. But of course, nothing like the ‘Us’ 😉

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