Us (2019) – Summary, Review (with Spoilers)

Us (2019) - Title Card
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Us, at first, circumvents a lot of what you expect from a horror/thriller. However, after a while, it overstays it’s welcome and its ending? Well…


Director(s) Jordan Peele
Screenplay By Jordan Peele
Date Released 3/21/2019
Genre(s) Horror, Mystery
Good If You Like Seeing Black People Live Till The End Of The Movie

Light Comedy In Your Horror

Isn’t For You If You Are Looking For Jump Scares

A Whole Lot Of Explanation About What Is Going On

Noted Cast
Adelaide/ Red Lupita Nyong’o
Young Adelaide Madison Curry
Gabe Winston Duke
Zora Shahadi Wright Joseph
Jason Evan Alex

Us Plot Summary (Ending Commentary on 2nd Page)

In Santa Cruz, 1986, something traumatic happened to Adelaide that left her mute for quite some time. However, in present day, while shaken, she seems fine. I mean, she has a husband, Gabe, a daughter, Zora, and a son she adores named Jason. By all means, she should be happy. However, with Gabe taking them on a trip to Santa Cruz comes a bit of fear of encountering the past. A past which isn’t so much a thing but a person – one out for revenge.

Highlights

High Caliber Drama

Trauma is the staple of horror movies, especially when starring women. However, very few have the talents of Nyong’o and what she brings is the kind of legitimacy to the horror genre which reminds you how the genre is rooted in either the character’s or writer’s worst fears. All of which Nyong’o brings to life in subtle ways like having a difficult time with intimacy, communicating with strangers, and also in more extravagant ways as she portrays her alter Red.

Red’s Voice & How Twisted She Seems

Red (Lupita Nyong'o) looking at the woman she is tethered to.
Red (Lupita Nyong’o)

From the smile to the voice, Red is the type of character who, as she struggles to talk, you are both lured in deeper yet constantly left fearing a jump scare. For as Red speaks about her life, what has happened to her, you almost want to feel bad for her. Maybe hope there could be some kind of compromise, but as you come to realize that was taken off the table long ago, you may want to end up rooting for Red.

There Goes Their Childhood

Strangely, the loss of innocence when it comes to Zora and Jason is one of the best parts of the film. Perhaps because you don’t often see Black children in horror films, never mind Black children being shown as innocent. Take Zora, for example, yes she is on her phone a lot, but she isn’t trying to curse out Adelaide or Gabe. Their family, if anything, is normal.

Well, Jason is a little weird, due to his love of masks, but that could be explained in a multitude of ways. Not explicitly for us, but you can make educated guesses. Be it because he thinks he is ugly, it’s part of his magic fantasy, a simple fascination with masks, among other ideas.

It’s Black

Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) teaching her son to get in rhythm.
Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o)

Us is not radically Black, but between Adelaide teaching Jason about rhythm, Gabe’s comment about Adelaide leaving a key outside like white people, and things like that, the characters are made to be culturally Black. Also, and maybe this is just important to me, having the parents and children being medium to dark-skinned seemed rather important. Not just for Nyong’o being the lead, treated as desirable, and a wonderful mother, but also the kids since this is a significant role for both. Not to downplay their past work, or Joseph voicing a young Nala in The Lion King, but with it so often seeming light skinned or ethnically ambiguous actors being pushed to the forefront, seeing both the adults and kids being undeniably Black brings about a sense of pride. Especially since it isn’t just in skin tone but culture.

Criticism

It’s Ending It’s Kind of Meh

Call me jaded, but the ending was kind of meh. Granted, part of the reason was the movie feels longer than it needs to be. However, there is also the issue of all the hype surrounding the movie which pushes you to think Peele has the ability to reinvent the wheel. But, in the end, while a creative man, who definitely pushes the horror genre past what many do, there are but so many ways to end a movie, and he chose a way to end Us that you’ve seen before.

On The Fence

Understanding Why Gabe Got With Adelaide

With the way Adelaide acts, so comes the question of what led to her and Gabe getting together? She doesn’t have the best social skills, isn’t necessarily the most intimate, so what’s the attraction here? Not just for Gabe but Adelaide too? For despite Nyong’o and Duke being absolutely beautiful, their chemistry is a bit lackluster.

Overall: Mixed (Divisive) | Purchase, Rent, or Get Merchandise On Amazon | Get Tickets From Fandango

The good outweighs the bad, number wise, but between a meh ending, this overstaying its welcome, and lack of chemistry in its leads, Us just barely misses being labeled positive. Yet, between Nyong’o’s performance, the way the children lose their innocence, and it presenting Black characters in skin tone and culture, I must admit I feel like I’m nitpicking when it comes to the criticism.

But, let’s put it this way, Us is a thinking person’s horror. One which is pursuing a quality story more than jump scares. Hence why a grand finish was expected. Yet, with it limping like Gabe towards the end, it’s hard to not feel a bit disappointed.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. “A kept trying to find ways to be happy, but her smile was painted on and she was miserable. Free from the underground but still an outsider looking through the glass.”

    Of course she was miserable, her life was not her own, her parents were not her own. She learned basic human emotion, she literally learned how to talk because her parents took her to therapy. There she learned and picked up the characteristics and mannerisms of how a human should act but it was a facade. That laugh she let out, after she killed the real A and her creepy ass Thriller/Michael Jackson smile she gave Jason at the end, I think was her being her true self for the first time. No more paranoia, no more living in fear of having her secret being found out, she could now live in “peace” because the original her is now dead. When she killed the twin and when she killed the original A she let out her true soulless self, you heard her animal instincts with the grunting and growling. She definitely had to suppress a lot of things.

    Its crazy poor A “Red” just wanted her life back. As someone pointed out in a video I watched. The original A, “Red” was the only one of her doppelgangers that didn’t kill. Original A had a soul, she had a story, fake A could easily kill and give into her animal instincts because she had no soul.

    When original A told fake A to handcuff herself to the table it was because she remembered when she was handcuffed to the bed after fake A stole her life.

    But yes Zora in terms of her doppelganger definitely left a bit more to be desired but I still enjoyed her. I think that it is funny how original Zora hated running and didn’t really like it or was at least subpar yet fake Z was a sprinter and had no issue killing, along with her laughing even though she was dying.

    The part where the dad was trying to reason with the fake crew and zora was like dad nobody wants your boat the theater was laughing so loud lol

    Thoughts?

    • I hope they filmed an epilogue of some sorts. We don’t need a full-on sequel but I’d like to see a bit of a hereafter.

      On the note of A and Red, while she didn’t kill herself, Red, she did setup all the killings we did see since she pushed herself to seem like the mastermind of it all. So who is to say she wouldn’t have killed A if she wasn’t so focused on dancing around her and went for the final blow?

      • Man that dance/fight scene was everything! When Red stood up and fake A took her stance abd then the music dropped, it was too much I loved it!!!.

        I also noticed a parallel with this scene as well. During the flashback of Red and fake A dancing, you see that fake A is graceful, clean, a “true” ballerina and we see that she is dancing in an auditorium or a dancehall. While with Red we see her dance moves are much rough and violent and she isn’t graceful or clean, her tutu and hair are bit more rugged and tattered. Her audience is the souless, feral, non-speaking clones that she has found herself trapped with in the tunnels. Yet when Red and fake A face off, this time around Red is the more graceful, clean one. Her moves are more on point hence why she was able to dodge fake A’s blows. In turn fake A is more wild and violent. She was swinging the fire stick wildly and crazy. We see that she is trying her best to take Red down because she knows what she had done to her. She knows that she can’t play the “regular”, “house mom” part anymore. Her true self needs to come out. She realized that she had to be her true self in order to take Red out before Red took her out.

        Along with the fact that Red did seem like she was playing or toying with fake A for bit. Again she had a soul, she was human so her first instinct wasn’t always to kill unlike Abraham, Umbrea, and Pluto who were always feral. Especially with Umbrea and Pluto considering that Red didn’t even to get with Abraham let alone have his kids, it makes sense that the reason that they can’t speak is because Red never felt the need to teach them to speak because she had no real love or attachment towards them.

        Thoughts?

        • After watching Winston Duke’s Breakfast Club interview, it seems her attachment, Red’s, was for her long term planning. She needed to position herself as a leader and with her life mirroring A’s, she took control of the fate given to her. So when it came to her children and Abraham, her attachment stemmed from needing them to reach her goals. If she wanted revenge or freedom, she had to connect with them in a way to make them loyal. To use them like tools, she had to learn how to integrate and speak their language.

          So while I don’t think she loved them, I do think she was attached in the same way we’re attached to our phones. Is it replaceable? Yes. However, the time and effort to redo everything to make it how we need and like isn’t something we’d want to spend time on. So we grow attached to what is convenient, familiar, and easy to manipulate.

  2. Great review Amari! I just watched it yesterday and my mind is still blown with how amazing this movie is! I respect your score but I got to give this film a 9\10. Like there so much to unpack with this movie lol The soundtrack alone is what shaped this movie as well. The beginning of the movie that showed the rabbits with the creepy chant music already sucked me into the movie.

    Lupita Nyong’o was fuckin fantastic!!!! (Excuse my language) but the woman was ACTING when it came to her character. Not even when she was playing Red, but when she was just Adelaide you could see in her face and with her body language that something wasn’t right, as if something was bothering her. You could just see how nervous and ansty she was. Adelaide wearing all white throughout the movie and us (lol) watching as her clothing got redder and redder.

    Also I would agree with you about the chemistry, in the context of the story. It makes sense that Adelaide and Gabe didn’t have any chemistry because they weren’t supposed to be together. When Red tells her story she says that the Prince fell in love with the shadow. So at some point Gabe and A met, Gabe being all goofy probably didn’t pick-up or see all of the “weird” things that A was doing or talking about and just fell for her along with LN being gorgeous as well. As for A she probably felt like she had to get with Gabe in order to fulfill that sense of normalcy even though she didn’t have any real familiarity with intimacy before. If you noticed Gabe and Adelaide only kiss once in the movie, and Gabe was pretty much ignored when it came to the two of them having sex. Yes they did have the children but again I believe that it may have been more about Adelaide feeling like she needed to in order to justify her continuing to stay or live above ground and not in the tunnels. Like out of necessity as opposed to real, genuine love. Although, that’s just a theory.

    Another theory of mine is that Gabe didn’t really pick up on Adelaide’s weird behavior up until they went back to Santa Cruz because Adelaide was never that close to Red. Going back to Santa Cruz, going to the boardwalk it put her right back into the same place she so desperately wanted to escape from. She knew that Red was going to come for her because she knew exactly who she was and what she did to the original Adelaide hence her not wanting to go back. (Again just a theory.)

    Also Zora and Jason were great characters. They really held there own and both had there own moments to shine. Our theater clapped more than a few times throughout the movie it was great.

    Thoughts?

    • Taking note of what you said, it makes me wonder if A ever got to be herself or was she always wearing a mask to put out the idea she is normal? Then with Gabe, I’m wondering, since he seemed to be about status, if he was mimicking the classic wife, one son, one daughter American dream? I mean, the way he acted was of that classic father figure who worked hard, seemingly made all the money, and was weirdly goofy. Sort of like a sitcom dad.

      So it pushes the idea that maybe the shadows was the reality of how they all felt? Gabe perhaps was angry that, no matter how much he tried to fit in, he couldn’t. A kept trying to find ways to be happy, but her smile was painted on and she was miserable. Free from the underground but still an outsider looking through the glass. Even with the kids, I feel Jason wore the mask since he felt ostracized like a burn victim and figured, perhaps because he was surrounded by those his dad was trying to impress, it was his skin which made him an outsider.

      Then with Zora things get a bit tougher. I think the issue there is she felt that all anyone saw was someone who ran and could go far in that. Hence why that shadow didn’t say much. It was just she didn’t have anything and perhaps felt hollow? To be honest, Zora, while essential, left the least impression on me so I’m kind of scrapping up something to say when it comes to her.

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