Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex
Director: Jordan Peele
“A family’s serene beach vacation turns to chaos when their doppelgängers appear and begin to terrorize them” (IMDb).
»Currently streaming on HBO MAX«
What to Expect
Several renditions of “I Got 5 on It”
Some Kind of Fucked Up Performance Art
Why You Should Watch It
Jordan Peele has proven himself as a mastermind of horror, twisting real-life events and scenarios into disturbing filmic metaphors. Remember to think on the significance of being terrified by people who look exactly like you as you work out the motivations behind the Wilson family’s red-jumpsuit-clad doppelgängers. In addition to Us delivering on the scares, Lupita Nyong’o delivers a double-sided performance that is downright riveting. Whether terrified or empathetic toward her characters, you are undeniably drawn to the both of them.
Worth Checking Out (B)
What’s important to remember about Us is that it’s meant to be taken allegorically, not literally. So even though I’m burning with questions on the particulars of not only cloning thousands of people, but keeping them alive and hiding them in an underground college campus (How many were cloned? How were they tethered? Who was supplying the rabbits? Where did they get all the resources needed to coordinate their outfits—?), I’m going to skirt around those and focus on what the story meant.
The core tenet of this film is Americans being afraid of outsiders, but the outsiders are us. The 1986 Hands Across America event was meant to raise awareness for issues including hunger, homelessness, and poverty. So when Red tells Addy (both Nyong’o) that she and her family are Americans, she is representing the marginalized cohort of Americans that are ignored or regarded as less than. Just like Hands Across America, Red’s “fucked up performance art” is an attempt to bring awareness to the Tethered.
It’s also explained that while Addy lived in wealth and happiness throughout her life, Red was forced to live off raw rabbit and lacked the choice and prosperity her counterpart enjoyed. Although this is absolutely a reflection of Americans living in poverty while the more fortunate ignore their plight, the argument can also be made that Red is speaking to certain refugee and immigrant experiences—the oft-heard story of people coming to the Land of Opportunity so they might give themselves and their families a better life. Addy’s horrified and violent reaction to Red’s intrusion is not far removed from how some Americans view illegal immigration today.
The scissor motif throughout the movie is a reflection of the duality of humanity, not just the differences between us and them, but, according to Peele, “the guilt and sins that we bury deep within ourselves.” We see this in the film’s brilliant twist ending; after believing that Addy is the innocent girl being terrorized by this freaky underground twin, and then learning that she is the freaky underground twin, and the real Addy has come back for revenge. It gives a whole new meaning to Addy’s fear of returning to Santa Cruz—it’s not trauma that holds her back, but worry of confrontation by the girl whose life she stole. She knows she’s the true outsider, and is terrified to be found out.
When the doppelgänger first dragged Real Addy to her underground lair all those years ago, she choked and handcuffed her to a bed. When Real Addy appears years later as Red, forcing Addy to cuff herself to the coffee table was a reversal of roles. Red’s discordant, cracked voice is also a combination of having her windpipe crushed by her doppelgänger and living with the voiceless Tethered for decades. As for Addy, she didn’t know how to speak when she first took on her new life aboveground, as shown in flashbacks with her parents. She also tells a talkative Kitty at the beach that she’s not much of a talker, one of the few hints Peele throws the audience as to her true identity.