Friday Film Review--"Nope"
In the new film, Nope, Jordan Peele once again shows his flair for pop-culture history, and for placing his African-American heroes in unconventional situations.
Two adult siblings, O. J. Haywood and his sister Thelma, have inherited a Southern California horse ranch. Their father, a veteran trainer and wrangler for movies and TV, died when a bizarre cascade of debris rained from the sky.
Their ranch is located near Agua Dulce, a real-life filming location for many Westerns—and some Star Trek episodes. The siblings suspect a UFO is lurking above their valley, and Thelma believes if they can get clear photographic evidence, they’ve hit the jackpot. And she means, the “taking it to Oprah” kind of jackpot.
But O.J. comes to believe their quarry isn’t a hi-tech flying saucer from galaxies far, far away. It’s a predator, hiding in the clouds just as surely as Bruce the Shark was lurking below the waves.
Jordan Peele became a sensation with Get Out the surprise hit of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. He followed that up with Us. Both films touched on primal fears but also dealt with ideas about racial and class divisions.
Peele also knows how to get us involved with the likable lead characters before the plot kicks into gear.
In this new film, British actor Daniel Kaluuya is transformed into a hard-ridin’ cowboy who’s a man of few words, (which explains the title of the movie.) Keke Palmer is his extroverted sister.
Also in the cast, Steven Yeun (from The Walking Dead) plays Jupe, the proprietor of a Western-town theme park who also wants to attract the UFO. He has a backstory that’s creepier than the alien plot.
As a child actor, Jupe starred in a 90’s family sitcom centered around a cute chimpanzee. But during a live studio taping, the chimp went berserk at the sound of a popping balloon, and the results were grisly. (Kids, this didn’t really happen, but the lesson is be careful what you’re messing with, whether the creature be great or small.)
The plot also involves two other people joining up with the Haywoods, an electronic-store geek and a fatalistic film maker; references to silent-film history but also the Sixties novelty song “Pied Purple People Eater”; and the heroes luring the monster by setting out an array of those inflatable “tube men” familiar from used-car lots.
Nope is a good summer thriller. It’ll make you nervous about looking at fluffy clouds. But the climax runs too long. And the chills aren’t as affecting as in Peele’s previous films.
Still, what I detect here is three-and-a-half stars out of five. And that ain’t swamp gas.