Us (2019 film)

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Us
Us (2019) theatrical poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJordan Peele
Written byJordan Peele
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyMike Gioulakis
Edited byNicholas Monsour
Music byMichael Abels
Production
companies
Distributed byUniversal Pictures[1]
Release date
  • March 8, 2019 (2019-03-08) (SXSW)
  • March 22, 2019 (2019-03-22) (United States)
Running time
116 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$20 million[3]
Box office$255.2 million[3]

Us is a 2019 American horror film written and directed by Jordan Peele, starring Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, and Tim Heidecker. The film follows Adelaide Wilson (Nyong'o) and her family, who are attacked by a group of menacing doppelgängers.

The project was announced in February 2018, and much of the cast joined in the following months. Peele produced the film alongside Jason Blum and Sean McKittrick (the trio previously having collaborated on Get Out and BlacKkKlansman), as well as Ian Cooper. Filming took place from July to October 2018 in California, mostly in Los Angeles, Pasadena and Santa Cruz.

Us had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 8, 2019, and was theatrically released in the United States on March 22, 2019, by Universal Pictures. It was a critical and commercial success, grossing $255 million worldwide against a budget of $20 million, and received praise for Peele's screenplay and direction, as well as the musical score and Nyong'o's performance.

Plot[edit]

In 1986, a young girl named Adelaide "Addy" watches a commercial for Hands Across America. At night, at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, she wanders off from her parents and enters a funhouse, where she encounters a doppelgänger of herself in the house of mirrors.

Years later, the grownup Adelaide goes on vacation with her husband, Gabriel "Gabe" Wilson, and their children Zora and Jason. She's apprehensive about the trip, haunted by memories of the encounter and her recovery, during which she stopped speaking and withdrew from her family. Despite her misgivings, the family meet with their friends Josh and Kitty Tyler and their twin daughters at the beach. On the way there, they witness paramedics taking away a body of an old man, blood on his chest. Jason later sees someone strangely similar to the old man, standing still with his arms outstretched and hands bloody.

That night, Adelaide tells Gabe about her childhood incident, but another nightmare suddenly unfolds. A family of four dressed in red appears in the driveway before breaking into the house. Cornering the Wilsons in their own living room, the family is revealed as their doppelgängers. They include Pluto (Jason's fire-loving, mouth-scarred double), Umbrae (Zora's sadistic double), and Abraham (Gabe's double), and are led by Red (Adelaide's double), the only one who can speak, albeit in a guttural, raspy voice. Red explains that they are called "the Tethered", they share a soul with their lookalike counterparts, and they have come to "untether" themselves. She tells them the story of a girl who lives a life of comfort and joy while her "shadow" remains in the dark, suffering while living a mirrored, painful version of the girl's life and hating the girl for it. The Wilsons are separated and terrorized by their psychotic doppelgängers. Adelaide is handcuffed and Jason discovers that Pluto mirrors his actions. After Gabriel manages to kill Abraham, the family escapes on their boat together.

Meanwhile, the Tyler family is suddenly ambushed and murdered by their own doppelgängers at home. The Wilsons arrive and are attacked as well, but they manage to eventually overpower and kill the Tyler's doubles. Realizing they aren't the only people with doppelgängers, they turn on the news to see that the Tethered have been murdering their equivalents across the U.S., and after doing so, joining hands to form a massive human chain. The Wilsons decide to drive along the coast and escape to Mexico. While leaving, Umbrae attacks the car and Zora kills her by sending her flying into a tree where she is impaled on a tree branch.

Arriving at the boardwalk, the Wilsons find the townspeople already slaughtered. They also find the road blocked by a burning car. Jason, realizing it is a trap set by Pluto, orders everyone out of the car. Before Pluto can ignite the family's car, Jason backs away so that Pluto mirrors him and walks into the burning car. As Pluto dies, Red suddenly appears and snatches Jason. While Gabe recuperates from his wounds with Zora in an ambulance, Adelaide chases after Red to the funhouse where they first met. She finds a secret entrance that leads to an underground facility overrun by white rabbits, where she finds Red in a classroom.

Red explains that "the Tethered" are actually genetic clones created by the government to control the originals on the surface to their own twisted purposes. When the experiment failed, the Tethered were abandoned underground for generations, mindlessly mimicking the actions of their counterparts and surviving on rabbit meat. After they realized that Red was "different from the others", she organized them to escape and take vengeance by murdering their counterparts. Red and Adelaide begin to "fight" in the form of ballet, with Red gracefully evading and countering all of Adelaide's increasingly unbalanced attacks. When Adelaide allows Red to attack, she impales Red with a fireplace poker, then strangles her to death and breaks her neck, before rescuing Jason from a locker. Jason also rescues one of the rabbits.

While Adelaide drives the family away in the ambulance, she suddenly recalls the harrowing night she first met Red in the hall of mirrors. The clone had choked Adelaide unconscious (damaging her larynx, making her voice raspy and guttural sounding), dragged her underground, handcuffed her there, and returned above ground to take Adelaide's place in her life, eventually learning to speak and adjusting as a human being. Jason looks suspiciously at his mother, who merely gives him a sly smile. A final aerial shot shows that "the Tethered" have formed a human chain, replicating the Hands Across America demonstration, stretching across the United States as helicopters hover overhead.

Cast[edit]

Performer Main character "Tethered" character
Lupita Nyong'o Adelaide Wilson Red
Winston Duke Gabriel "Gabe" Wilson Abraham
Elisabeth Moss Kitty Tyler Dahlia
Tim Heidecker Josh Tyler Tex
Shahadi Wright Joseph Zora Wilson Umbrae
Evan Alex Jason Wilson Pluto
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Russel Thomas Weyland
Anna Diop Rayne Thomas Eartha
Cali Sheldon Becca Tyler Io
Noelle Sheldon Lindsey Tyler Nix
Madison Curry Young Adelaide Young Red
Ashley McKoy Teenage Adelaide Teenage Red
Napiera Groves Dr. Foster Amethyst
Duke Nicholson Danny Tony
Kara Hayward Nancy Syd
Nathan Harrington Glen Jack
Dustin Ybarra Troy Brand
Alan Frazier Ferdie Jeremiah
Lon Gowan Don Joseph
Jordan Peele Dying Rabbit/Fun House Narrator[4] N/A

Production[edit]

Development[edit]

Shooting took place at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

After being dismayed with the "genre confusion" over his previous film, Get Out,[5] Peele opted to make his next film a "full-on" horror film.[6] Peele has said that an inspiration for Us was The Twilight Zone episode "Mirror Image", which was centered on a young woman and her evil doppelgänger.[5]

Peele has also said that the idea of the "tethered" living underground came to him as a teenager when he would take the train home from work.[7]

"You get out of the train and you have to go down through an underpass and come out the other side. There's no one else there, just this dark, American town. I'd come up and I'd look over to the other side, and I'd picture seeing the tail end of myself going down that same tunnel, to presumably emerge right near me 30 seconds later. And I can't be seen by that other version of me...It was a very scary day as I saw my double but I instantly knew it wasn't real and the idea popped into my head."

Casting[edit]

On May 8, 2018, it was announced that Lupita Nyong'o, Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss were all in negotiations to star in the film, with Nyong'o and Duke portraying a black couple, and Moss portraying one half of a white couple.[8] Nyong'o later confirmed her casting by posting the film's promotional poster on her Instagram.[9] The rest of the cast, including Tim Heidecker, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex were all confirmed in July of that year.[10]

Peele saw the characters of the film as an "archetypal foursome," with Adelaide being the leader, Zora being the warrior, Gabe being jester/fool and Jason being the wiz/magician.[11] For her role, Nyong'o had to use a different voice for the character of Red. She said her performance was inspired by the condition spasmodic dysphonia, a condition that causes a person's voice to go into periods of spasm. In order to perfect her voice, she, "...worked with an ear, nose, and throat doctor, a vocal therapist, and my dialect coach to try and make sure I could do it and do it safely. 'Cause I had two roles to play, I couldn't afford to damage my voice."[12]

Filming[edit]

Principal photography began on July 30, 2018, in Santa Cruz, California, including their famous Boardwalk. Most of the film was shot in Los Angeles, and the main house featured is located in Pasadena. The house had modifications and the team spent 6 weeks there.[13] Filming wrapped on October 8, 2018.[14]

Post-production[edit]

The visual effects were provided by Industrial Light & Magic and supervised by Grady Cofer.[15]

Michael Abels, who had previously scored Peele's Get Out, returned to do the same for Us.[16]

Soundtrack[edit]

The 1995 Luniz song "I Got 5 on It" is featured in this film, first at the beginning, when the family is driving to the beach and then later on in the film when the "tethered" family breaks into the vacation home. The once-fun song transmogrifies into an eerie "Tethered Mix", slowing everything down, and fully indulging the ominous quality of the film. Due to the track's popularity upon the trailer's release, it was edited into the final cut of the film, appearing during the climax.[17] Waxwork Records announced in August 2019 that they would release the soundtrack to the film on vinyl, which contained Abels' popular score.[18] The N.W.A song "Fuck tha Police" is also heard when Kitty Tyler tells the voice assistant Ophelia to "call the police", moments before she's killed by her Tethered counterpart, Dahlia, and the song plays throughout when the Wilsons enter the Tyler family's home.

Marketing[edit]

The official trailer was released on December 25, 2018.[19] The trailer, which was set to a darker version of the song "I Got 5 on It", featured a similar tone, editing, and shots as Peele's Get Out, prompting speculation that the two films were set in the same universe.[20]

A second trailer was released on February 3, 2019, for Super Bowl LIII. That trailer featured a narration by Lupita Nyong'o's character, Adelaide, speaking with her husband Gabriel about the strange coincidences happening since they arrived at their beach house, and describing it as a "black cloud" hanging over them. The new theatrical release date, March 22, was announced at the end of the trailer.[21] Deadline Hollywood estimated the studio spent around $77 million on promotion and advertisements for the film.[22]

Release[edit]

Us had its world premiere at the South by Southwest festival on March 8, 2019.[23] It was also screened on March 6, 2019, before its official release, at Howard University.[24] The film was originally scheduled for theatrical release in the United States on March 15, 2019, but was pushed back a week to March 22, following the announcement of its festival premiere.[25]

Home media[edit]

Us was released on 4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD on June 18, 2019.[26] The 4K release is an upscale from the 2K master.[27]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Us grossed $175.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $80.1 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $255.2 million, against a production budget of $20 million.[3] Deadline Hollywood calculated the net profit of the film to be $119 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues.[28]

In the United States and Canada, initial tracking had Us grossing $35–40 million in its opening weekend.[29] By the week of its release, estimates had risen to $45–50 million, with advance ticket sales on Fandango outpacing A Quiet Place ($50.2 million) and Get Out ($33.7 million).[30] The film made $29.1 million on its first day, including $7.4 million from Thursday night previews, one of the best-ever for a horror film and far higher than the $1.8 million Thursday grossed by Get Out, increasing weekend estimates for Us to $68 million.[31] It went on to debut to $71.1 million, ranking number one at the box office and becoming the second best opening for a live-action original film after Avatar ($77 million in 2009), as well as the third-best total for a horror film after It ($123.4 million in 2017) and Halloween ($77 million in 2018) and the best ever opening for an original horror film not based on a known property.[22][32] In its second weekend, the film made $33.6 million, dropping 52.7% (slightly above-average for a horror film but much larger than the 15% seen by Get Out) and finishing second behind newcomer Dumbo.[33]

Critical response[edit]

Lupita Nyong'o received widespread acclaim from critics and audiences with most acting nominations for her dual role in the film.

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 93% based on 550 reviews, with an average rating of 7.90/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "With Jordan Peele's second inventive, ambitious horror film, we have seen how to beat the sophomore jinx, and it is Us."[34] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 81 out of 100, based on 56 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[35] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an overall positive score of 80%, with 60% saying they would definitely recommend it.[22] Us was described by Rolling Stone as "spill-your-soda scary", compared to the "existentially terrifying" Get Out.[5]

Monica Castillo of RogerEbert.com gave the film four out of four, writing that: "Us is another thrilling exploration of the past and oppression this country is still too afraid to bring up. Peele wants us to talk, and he's given audiences the material to think, to feel our way through some of the darker sides of the human condition and the American experience."[36] David Griffin of IGN gave the film 9.0/10, calling it "a very, very strange film. But that's OK because it wouldn't be a Jordan Peele joint if there wasn't a little risk involved. Peele has proven that he's not a one-hit wonder with this truly terrifying, poignant look at one American family that goes through hell at the hands of maniacal doppelgangers".[37] John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter called Us "a fiercely scary movie whose meaning is up for grabs".[1]

Richard Brody of The New Yorker called the film a "colossal achievement," writing, "Us is a horror film—though saying so is like offering a reminder that The Godfather is a gangster film or that 2001: A Space Odyssey is science fiction. Genre is irrelevant to the merits of a film, whether its conventions are followed or defied; what matters is that Peele cites the tropes and precedents of horror in order to deeply root his film in the terrain of pop culture—and then to pull up those roots."[38]

Conversely, Stephanie Zacharek of Time thought Peele had too many ideas and not enough answers compared to Get Out and said, "Peele goes even deeper into the conflicted territory of class and race and privilege; he also ponders the traits that make us most human. But this time, he's got so many ideas he can barely corral them, let alone connect them. He overthinks himself into a corner, and we're stuck there with him."[39]

Themes and interpretations[edit]

Critic Jim Vejvoda related the Tethered to "urban legends" and "xenophobic paranoia about the Other", also writing they resembled the Morlocks in H. G. Wells's 1895 novel, The Time Machine.[40] Journalist Noel Ransome viewed the film as being about "the effects of classism and marginalization", writing "the Tethered are effigies of this same situational classism. They're trapped—mentally and physically—and ignored".[41] Joel Meares of Rotten Tomatoes also noted that the Tethered, referencing the "we're Americans" line, are representatives of the duality of American society, how some citizens can afford to live on top of the class system while others are stuck in poverty. He also noted the title Us could mean "U.S.", or United States.[42]

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times notes that the Wilsons are "introduced with an aerial sweep of greenery" similar to the opening of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, and sees that movie as the principal influence on Us. Describing Peele as a "true cinephile", she also identifies allusions to other films, including Jaws, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Goonies, as well as one scene suggesting an influence by the Austrian film director Michael Haneke's 1997 horror film Funny Games and subsequent U.S. remake.[43]

The Tethered's red jump suits and single glove were an allusion to Michael Jackson along with the "Thriller" shirt seen on young Adelaide, and Peele has stated that Jackson was "the patron saint of duality".[42][44] Peele referenced many other instances of 1980s culture, including allusions to The Lost Boys and Hands Across America, stating "Everything in this movie was deliberate, that is one thing I can guarantee you. Unless you didn't like something and that was a complete accident".[44][45]

The film contains numerous references to Jeremiah 11:11, which reads: "Therefore thus saith the Lord: 'I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them'" (NIV). Critic Rosie Fletcher commented on the context, with Jeremiah warning Jerusalem was facing destruction due to false idols, and expressed the opinion that the film's characters also "worshiped the wrong things", such as Ophelia, the virtual assistant.[46]

Peele later explained in the film's digital release special features that a central theme of the film is American privilege:[47]

"One of the central themes in Us is that we can do a good job collectively of ignoring the ramifications of privilege. I think it's the idea that what we feel like we deserve comes, you know, at the expense of someone else's freedom or joy. You know, the biggest disservice we can do as a faction with a collective privilege like the United States is to presume that we deserve it, and that it isn't luck that has us born where we're born. For us to have our privilege, someone suffers. That's where the Tethered connection, I think, resonates the most, is that those who suffer and those who prosper are two sides of the same coin. You can never forget that. We need to fight for the less fortunate."

— Jordan Peele[47]

Accolades[edit]

Us was nominated for one Art Directors Guild,[48] four Critics' Choice Movie Awards,[49] one Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild,[50] three MTV Movie & TV Awards,[51] eight NAACP Image Awards,[52] four People's Choice Awards,[53] one Bram Stoker Award (won),[54] seven Saturn Awards (winning one),[55] one Screen Actors Guild Award,[56] and one World Soundtrack Awards (won).[57]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c DeFore, John (March 8, 2019). "'Us': Film Review - SXSW 2019". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
  2. ^ "Us". AMC Theatres. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Us (2019)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 25, 2019.
  4. ^ Vargas, Alani (March 2019). "Jordan Peele's 'Us' Cameo Is Very Hard To Spot, But Impossible To Forget". Bustle.com. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Hiatt, Brian (January 29, 2019). "The All-American Nightmares of Jordan Peele". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 1, 2019.
  6. ^ Peele, Jordan (March 17, 2019). "'Us' is a horror movie". Twitter. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  7. ^ Rose, Steve. "Jordan Peele on Us: 'This is a very different movie from Get Out'". The Guardian. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
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  9. ^ "Lupita Nyong'o on Instagarm". Instagram. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  10. ^ Galuppo, Mia. "Jordan Peele Thriller 'Us' Rounds Out Cast". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
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  12. ^ Giorgis, Hannah. "The Kinetic Horror of Lupita Nyong'o's Us Performance". The Atlantic. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  13. ^ Pereira, Alyssa; SFGATE (September 13, 2018). "Jordan Peele filming movie in Santa Cruz with Lupita Nyong'o, Elisabeth Moss, Winston Duke". SFGate. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  14. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 30, 2018). "Jordan Peele's 'Us' Starts Production, Rounds Out Cast". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  15. ^ "Us - The Art of VFXThe Art of VFX". www.artofvfx.com. December 25, 2018. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
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  18. ^ Saponara, Michael (August 23, 2019). "Jordan Peele's 'Us' Soundtrack Released on Vinyl: Exclusive". Billboard. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  19. ^ "Us - Official Trailer [HD]". www.youtube.com. YouTube. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  20. ^ Richards, Jared (December 27, 2018). "Here's Why Fans Think Jordan Peele's Next Film 'Us' Is Connected To 'Get Out'". Junkee. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
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  24. ^ "Newsroom". Howard Newsroom. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
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  26. ^ "Us DVD Release Date June 18, 2019". DVDs Release Dates. Retrieved June 17, 2019.
  27. ^ "Us 4K Blu-ray". Blu-ray. June 11, 2019. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
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  29. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 28, 2019). "Jordan Peele's 'Us' Eyes $35M-$40M Opening – Early Look". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  30. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (March 19, 2019). "Jordan Peele's 'Us' To Leave 'Captain Marvel' In The Dust With $45M-$50M Opening". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 19, 2019.
  31. ^ "Jordan Peele's "Us" debuts with massive box office opening". Film Industry Network. March 22, 2019.
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  39. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie (March 15, 2019). "Review: Jordan Peele's Us Is Dazzling to Look At. But What Is It Trying to Say?". Time. Retrieved March 21, 2019.
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  44. ^ a b Thompson, Rachel (March 19, 2019). "Jordan Peele explains the significance of the Michael Jackson imagery in 'Us'". Mashable. Retrieved March 29, 2019.
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  47. ^ a b Miller, Shannon (June 4, 2019). "Jordan Peele explains how privilege influenced Us in an exclusive clip". The A.V. Club. Los Angeles, California: j2 Global. Retrieved June 7, 2019.
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  50. ^ Pond, Steve (November 11, 2019). "'Bombshell' and 'Rocketman' Lead Make-Up Artists & Hair Stylists Guild Nominations". The Wrap. Retrieved November 11, 2019.
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  52. ^ Haring, Bruce (January 9, 2020). "NAACP Image Awards Nominees: 'Harriet,' 'When They See Us', Netflix Lead Way". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 9, 2020.
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  57. ^ Hipes, Patrick (October 18, 2019). "Nicholas Britell, 'Chernobyl' Composer, "Shallow" Among World Soundtrack Award Winners". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 19, 2019.

External links[edit]