Is it impossible to watch a film and completely miss the point? Nope.
Let’s talk about the word “miracle” for a second. What comes to mind is usually an event that can’t really be explained by the laws of nature or physics. Something completely left-field, but usually pretty good.
You know those stories of folks down on their luck praying for something different? The story of the humble farmer whose crops have been dry for three cycles (I don’t farm), so they reach their hands to the clouds and hope for a little rain? Maybe you are that unlucky farmer — metaphorically or literally, partner — staring up at the sky like so many of us do. Well, what happens when those prayers, those miracles, are answered, but not in the way you’d expect?
The idea of a “bad miracle” is the fuel that drives director, writer, and producer Jordan Peele’s third film, Nope. Aptly titled after the four-letter word that everyone, from the audience to the actors, will have said countless times before the credits roll on Peele’s most ambitious and bone-chilling film yet.
Jordan Peele’s scare tactics.
Previously known for bringing his particular brand of social commentary and thematic imagery to “pure horror” like Get Out and Us, Peele takes a slight left turn and crashes pen first into the chaotic world of science fiction. Invoking Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Peele tells a haunting tale with sharp turns and twisted detours throughout, with the idea of good and bad miracles at the forefront of a multilayered story.
A good example of a bad miracle is shown at the very beginning of the film, where a blood-soaked chimpanzee in a party hat wreaks havoc on the film set of a popular ’90s sitcom. Extremely horrifying, but this beat aims to do more than just evoke an entirely rational fear of chimps. Ricky “Jupe” Park, Steven Yeun’s character, has been plagued by the firsthand memory of this traumatic monkey massacre for decades. This terrible event has been transformed into a “miracle” for Jupe, who uses the fame he gained from the incident to open and promote his own western reenactment park.
Jupe, as well as our heroes OJ and Emerald Haywood (portrayed by Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer, respectively) encounter yet another questionable miracle: a supposed UFO (or UAP) flying over their horse ranch. For Jupe, proof of alien life not only means more stardom, but a chance to prove to himself and the world how special he truly is. To the Haywoods, it’s a possible way to earn money and fame to save their family ranch.
But as the saying often goes, “Be careful what you wish for.” This unidentified flying miracle worker may live in the clouds, but it isn’t rain that it’s dropping. Rather, keys, quarters, ceramic horse heads, and enough mysteries to fill a weather balloon loom over the heads of not just the characters, but ourselves. From the very start of the film, where Gordy the chimp (mo-capped by Terry Notary) states directly at the camera, Peele is saying one thing. “Nope, you’re in this too.”
We’re all staring the beast right in the eye. The “beast” in this case being that neverending journey of clout chasing. We’re all hoping to be a part of “the moment.” Whatever that moment is at the time. It’s even more apparent today with the rise of social media influencers and the fast-paced, moment-based model of the platform they stand on. This is just one layer of an intricate story that Peele tells, with our relationship to Hollywood (the guts and the glamour) at its core. Miraculously, this point has been missed on some. Especially the ones being called out.
Nope influences the influencer.
This is pretty common for Peele’s projects. But while it was mainly the usual suspects upset with the amount of social and racial commentary in his previous two films, Nope and its somewhat more universal theme somehow seems to be the most divisive among the three. It might be because of what the movie has to say about the ups and downs of an influencer-driven platform. As we all know, one of an influencer’s biggest pet peeves is being told that they’re acting like a total influencer. It’s right up there with dislike buttons and the concept of humility.
One such influencer, one of the biggest out there somehow, had quite a few words to say about Nope recently and it’s handling of…well just about everything. Normally, I wouldn’t bring up someone else’s review of a movie in my own review, especially if it’s a Twitter thread. But the real life irony of this person’s rant against boredom is really just too ironic to ignore. It’s like a little bonus epilogue for the film’s entire premise to be validated by its naysayers.
If the audience is supposed to see themselves in Nope as any or all of the characters present, some will unwittingly see themselves in Jupe, no question. Those who rose to stardom at a young age, with a career compounded in controversy. only to exploit controversy and even tragedy for not just money, but views.
The bottom line.
Jupe — much like everyone else in the film — is too clouded by the miracles of showbiz to notice the danger he puts himself and others in. Even the Haywoods, who have the most honorable motives in the film, are still ultimately swept up in the hunt for the next big thing.
Missing the integral themes of Nope isn’t really a fault of the film, which displays them in an almost comedic on-the-nose manner. Rather, this is an example of Peele’s tight grip on social commentary in horror. Nope is a mirror that reflects back all the good, the bad, and the ugly of chasing after miracles right at us. No wonder all three of Peele’s films so far have interchangeable titles.
Nope is now playing in theaters. Watch the trailer here.