It’s a big yes to ‘Nope’

It’s a big yes to ‘Nope’

Fatmata Sesay, Production Manager

Over the past five years, Jordan Peele has made a name for himself in the world of directing. The movie “Get Out” took the world by storm by combining horror with an examination of serious societal issues of race. His subsequent film “US” continued to teach lessons on race and society in a horrifying manner. These two standout movies from Peele left his viewers yearning for more. After the announcement of his newest movie “Nope” this past February, his “stans” were counting down the days until its July 22 release date.

As a lover of both “Get Out” and “US,” I was very excited to watch “Nope.” Jordan Peele has left a long- lasting impression on me, and I’m willing to watch anything with his name on it. Peele loves to give his audience just enough context to keep them interested but leaves out the perfect amount of information to keep them slightly disoriented and scared.

The movie follows siblings Emerald and OJ Haywood, successors to their late father’s horse-wrangling business. After the sudden passing of their father, the siblings are left to fend for themselves against mounting bills and the paranormal activity happening in the sky above their home. The Haywoods team up with Angel, their local, nosy tech geek, to catch the UFO on camera and hopefully reap the financial benefits of publishing clear UFO activity. In the meantime, their former-child- star, carnival-owner neighbor tries to film the UFO activity, too.

The first two films Peele directed had a story and a message that I was able to figure out and walk out with immediately, but after watching “Nope” I felt confused and was left with a lot of questions. What was the point of Gordy? Was a huge balloon all it took? What did I just watch? And most importantly, did OJ and Emerald get on Opera?

However, after ruminating on the plot, characters, and themes of the movie, I was able to parse out some personal and societal takeaways—and come away with even more respect for Peele as a director. The biggest takeaways were the personal impacts of money and capitalism, as well as the idea of stepping back and looking away from an immediate spectacle, which in “Nope” is the UFO (or as the movie adamantly calls it, the UAP). After observing the UFO, Ricky, the carnival owner, immediately plans to monetize the phenomenon. He hosts an event where his children dress up as aliens and sell alien plushies, and he even attempts to sacrifice a horse in the name of this event. In the end, this money grab costs him his life and the lives of everyone at the event. Ricky’s character is one of the most compelling because he embodies capitalism and the human desire to tame the unknown.

These concepts and ideas surrounding Ricky mainly stem from the introduction of Gordy, the monkey. The movie’s cold-open consists of a flashback to Ricky’s last day as a child actor. In this scene we meet Gordy, the star of the day- time sitcom “Gordy’s Home.” Later in the movie, we witness the whole scene from Ricky’s past. After getting spooked by the loud sounds on the set of his show, Gordy went berserk and attacked anyone who looked at him. The only person who walked off that set alive was Ricky, the one person who didn’t look Gordy in the eye. He was so mesmerized by a mysteriously levitating shoe in the middle of the set that he was unable to look at the true spectacle in front of him—Gordy’s rampage—and that saved his life. Now, about 20 years later, Ricky has succumbed to being drawn in by the spectacle directly in front of him.

While he used Ricky’s character to convey the intersection of money and ego, Peele was also able to subtly but effectively depict the Haywood siblings as run by grief, yet still chasing money. Emerald Haywood is like Ricky in the sense that her goal with the UFO was to make money, but her intentions weren’t clouded by ego in the same way. She was motivated by the desire to maintain her family legacy and tradition. OJ, on the other hand, always stood apart from the others. In contrast to the idea of the spectacle and all the attention that comes with it, he is very reserved. While the UFO warps technology, he uses a flip phone and rides a horse. Everything about OJ goes against the film’s major ideas and allows him to play a serious yet comedic role throughout the tense moments.

Peele’s directing style leaves his audience wanting to know more and craving a deep understanding that they know they can uncover with reflection. After doing my own personal deep dive into the film, I was able to uncover the answers to almost all of the questions I had upon my first watch, while also garnering even more respect for Peele as a storyteller and as a director. Jordan Peele is an amazing director who goes into every film with a vision, and it shows. He puts thought and energy into every scene, every edit, every joke, and every character, and is changing the game for horror movies and movies in general. “Nope” wasn’t as easy as Peele’s first two movies to understand, but it is well worth the extra time needed for reflection.