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Nope (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

Nope

NOPE (2022)

Starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, Wrenn Schmidt, Keith David, Donna Mills, Barbie Ferreira, Devon Graye, Eddie Jemison, Oz Perkins, Terry Notary, Andrew Patrick Ralston, Jennifer Lafleur, Lincoln Lambert, Pierce Kang, Roman Gross, Alex Hyde-White, Meredith VanCuyk          , Rhian Rees, Ryan W. Garcia and Conor Kowalski.

Screenplay by Jordan Peele.

Directed by Jordan Peele.

Distributed by Universal Pictures. 131 minutes. Rated R.

Jordan Peele’s latest film Nope is smart, funny, scary, beautiful, enjoyable and loaded with great ideas. So why doesn’t it exactly work?

Probably because it is overloaded with ideas. Peele is shooting for the skies here (literally), tossing in lots of symbols and tangents and subplots and gags to the point where it is bursting at the seams. Also to the point that the story doesn’t quite make sense.

For example, there is an extended sequence here with a murderous chimpanzee which is horrific and arresting. However, it only has a glancing connection to the storyline at large. I suppose it could be seen as foreshadowing the action to come, but that seems a bit tenuous.

Is it enough for it to just be arresting cinema? Maybe. But I walked out of Nope having enjoyed the ride but having multiple serious questions about what I had just seen.

I get that Peele doesn’t have to make everything cookie cutter. In fact, one of the teaser trailers for the film highlighted the fact that you can never know what you’ll get from Peele.

Since moving on from his comic role with Key & Peele, Peele has made smart updates on traditional horrors. Get Out was a smart and scary look at subtle racism in modern America, but it borrowed its basic plot structure from The Stepford Wives, and then ramped up the violence. Us was his reboot of the Strangers type of film about malevolent bad actors in the night surrounding a family home.

Nope is Jordan Peele’s extraterrestrial film, a surreal and much scarier take on Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It’s terrific and kind of a mess, all at the same time.

Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out) plays OJ, a horse trainer who has taken charge of his family business – training horses and providing them for films – after his father was killed in a mysterious accident on their land. The business, which had always been profitable, has hit on hard times and OJ is not a natural salesman like his dad. Therefore he gets his flamboyant sister Emerald (Keke Palmer) to be something of a frontperson for the business. Em is happy to help, but she’s also got her own irons in the fire, career wise.

OJ has been reduced to selling some of their horses to Jupe (Steven Yeun), a former child sitcom star who now runs a western theme park. (The chimp scene mentioned earlier was a flashback to a traumatic occurrence that happened when he was a child.)

Into this heated situation, OJ sees an unidentified flying object on their desert compound. He and Em determine if they can get a photo of the UFO, they could make enough money to save the ranch. The strange thing appears to be hiding in a still cloud formation above a nearby mountain. (It never quite makes sense why they think getting a picture will solve all their problems, they still have a perhaps deadly alien hanging nearby.) They hire a local electronics worker (Brandon Perea) to set their ranch up with cameras, and he ends up joining their little group of alien hunters.

This leads to some spectacular scenes in which we learn more about the danger which is lurking in the clouds. Nope has fun with typical horror tropes, like several times when OJ looks out and sees danger and he hunkers down in safety with a dismissive “Nope.” The cheesy faux-Western feel and the wicked satire is also intriguing.

You enjoy Nope through most of its runtime – it’s very engaging – and yet the whole time all these niggling little questions are piling up. Why did they do that? Why did that happen? How does any of this make sense?

Sadly, for the most part, it really doesn’t. But the movie’s highs go so high that it almost negates its flaws. In the long run, Nope ain’t no “yep,” but it’s a fairly strong “maybe.”

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 22, 2022.

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