Jordan Peele’s “Nope” Is A Yup

Spoilers ahead because that’s what we do over here.

This review is coming daysssss a full doggone week and some change after I originally planned to have it published, but I was on vacation and got sidetracked because who’s trying to type up a movie review when you’re at the beach with your man?? Certainly not I. And then life started life-ing. I’m back at work, they’re stressing me out, and I just couldn’t be bothered to sit down and crank this review out until now. I somehow managed to see this film a day before it was released and just knew I was a going to have my review out before everyone else, but… yeah. Clearly that didn’t happen. All good, though. My vacation was great, thanks for asking. 🙂

ANYWAYS. Let’s get into this review!

I’m a proud Jordan Peele stan these days, okay? After he gave us the masterpiece that was Get Out and crafted the fascinating, mind-boggling events of Us, I became eager to support any and everything with the man’s name on it. So naturally, when I saw the initial trailer for his newest film, Nope, starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, and Steven Yeun, I had no idea what it was supposed to be about, but I knew my butt would be in theaters the weekend it released and that’s exactly where I was on the night of July 21, 2022.

For me, Nope is the UFO/alien invader movie I didn’t know I needed. Not totally for the creepy elements of the film’s antagonist, but because of the discourse that can come from it. And that’s something I love (and I’m sure we all love) about Jordan Peele’s movies. They create conversation regarding the themes around the movie, conversation that may or may not result in definitive answers. For me, I think Peele is great at making movies that could have significantly deeper themes and meanings than what we initially see while at the same time can be interpreted as movies that should be taken at face value because sometimes, just sometimes, we think a little tooooo much about what things in movies could mean. Because this movie could totally just be an alien/cowboy/modern day Western-type movie if you absolutely wanted it to be.

But it could also be so much more! I don’t find myself considering underlying themes in movies too often, but every time I walk out of a Peele project I do and for me, that’s part of what makes his films so fun. It’s part of the experience: scratching your head, trying to decipher hidden messages in a two-hour-long piece of media that may or may not have been as deep as you’re making it.

Personally, I walked out of this film with two thoughts: 1) Nope is based word for word, bar for bar off a dream that Peele had once upon a time. You can’t look at Jean Jacket and tell me that thing doesn’t look like some amorphous blob straight out of some weird version of reality that only our sleeping minds could come up with. 2) Peele is trying to say something about how we, as a ✨society✨ approach the spectacle of nature. This one turned out to be totally accurate, especially since Peele is quoted as saying that the film is supposed to be about spectacle.

“The movie itself deals with spectacle, and the good and bad that come from this idea of attention.” 

– Jordan Peele, IndieWire, 2022

Let’s talk about what I feel this movie did right and wrong.

What I Loved:

  • The ACTING. Baby, this is Keke Palmer! Keke was just adorable and added some much needed levity to the situation. I can only hope that should I be plagued with a homicidal intergalactic parachute that wants to turn me into an hors d’oeuvre I have someone half as funny as her by my side to see it through. Daniel Kaluuya’s performance as the straight man was great, along with Steven Yeun’s portrayal as the sketchy amusement park manager, don’t get me wrong. I even thoroughly enjoyed Brandon Perea as Angel, who serves as the goofy tech guy, but honestly I felt that Keke was the shining star of this film. Take her out and the film would’ve fell completely flat for me.
  • Humor! Jordan Peele is great art sprinkling funny bits throughout what otherwise are some seriously horrifying situations and he did exactly that once again in Nope. The scene where Daniel Kaluuya’s character, OJ, is cornered by the alien and he just goes “Nope.” and tucks into the safety of his truck got a genuine laugh out of me and everyone in the theater with me. Because how accurate is that? Black people always talk about how if we were in a horror movie instead of going towards the threat, we’d “nope” out and go the opposite direction and leave whatever thing is trying to kill us right where it is. But it’s always great when movie makers have a knack for adding some relief into dire situations, and for me that just elevated Nope. It could’ve easily been straight doom and gloom for all 2+ hours of run time, but we got to breathe throughout and I loved that.
  • Cultural commentary. A pillar of Jordan Peele films. That extra ingredient that kicks his films up a notch and make them worthy of the discussion that comes with them. The film’s approach to discussing the erasure of Black people in the filmmaking industry from its infancy was *chef’s kiss* perfect.

What I Didn’t Love:

  • The Gordy subplot. Honestly, this is my only real grievance with the film. I was fascinated the chimp would have something, anything, to do with the alien in the end but narratively, they’re very separate events and have zero to do with one another. On closer inspection, though, they’re a lot more similar than you’d might think if you were only looking at them from the surface. You can draw similar conclusions from both of Gordy and Jean Jacket, the alien, in that when you make spectacle of nature, bad things happen. Gordy was a wild animal put into a hot, bright studio for our entertainment and ended up going (literally) apeshit on everyone. Jean Jacket would make a meal out of someone for making eye contact. So… similar. In a sense. But the Gordy subplot still just felt off to me and even after sitting with my thoughts all this time after watching Nope, there’s still something about it, to me, that just felt missing. Unfinished.

So I liked a lot more about the film that I didn’t like, which is great. I’m very glad that I took some time (even if I didn’t mean to) to really stew in this review and think about the film before posting, because initially I wanted to rate it a 6-7 out 10. I just didn’t gel with it much right off the bat, and I couldn’t quite figure out what Peele was trying to say with it, but between leaving the theater and sitting here writing this review now, I’ve come to appreciate the film and its subtleties a whole lot more.

If I had to rate the film now I’d give it 8.5 out of 10. Nope might not have been a film that I would be raving about for weeks and months after initially watching, but it was certainly a fun one to sit through, and an even more fun one to think about. I look forward to sitting down and participating in the spectacle all over again!

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