We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
In the movies, and unfortunately in life, we tend to accept the easy falsehood that someone who behaves badly in one respect must be bad in others, even if they're totally unrelated. So, if a person is a gambler, he must be a drunk. If he's a pedophile, he must be a murderer. If he's a cigarette smoker (in the movies, at least), he must be corrupt conspirator of some kind.
In a black-and-white world, human flaws are not allowed. In order to do good, a person must himself be a paragon of goodness. "Half Nelson," the miraculous movie by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, is about a junior high schoolteacher who smokes. Crack. And the thing is, he's a good teacher, even if (or, rather, because) he doesn't always stick to the district-approved syllabus.
Dan (Ryan Gosling) wakes up on the hardwood floor of his apartment in an open short-sleeved shirt and white jockey shorts. And then he somehow gets himself to work, dragging himself up the stairs like an escapee from a George Romero movie. He's wan and thin, and his bruised blue eyes look like they could roll back in his head at any minute. But once he gets started talking about the dialectics of power and world politics, he comes alive. Back in the teachers' lounge, or alone in his car, for lunch, he's halfway back to the realm of the undead again.
Dan does some bad things -- reckless, destructive and irresponsible things. But is he a bad guy? I don't think so. And neither do his students -- especially Drey (Shareeka Epps), the stoic and rather sullen student who finds her basketball coach half-unconscious on the floor of a school restroom after a game. She gets him a wet paper towel. He says he's sorry. Neither of them makes a big thing about it. Somehow, it brings them closer. "See you tomorrow," she says when he drops her off at home.