Rewatching Nope [many spoilers]

I watched Jordan Peele’s Nope at the cinema when it was out and immediately wanted to watch it again but that’s not really an option when you are an adult and have things to do, so I had to wait until it was available to rent online. I enjoyed it as much the second time on a small screen, although some of the visual impact was lost. It’s a film still recent enough that I should give advanced notice of spoilers. if you haven’t seen it and want to watch it unspoiled then proceed no further!

What struck me watching the film again was how the story of Steven Yeun’s character, Ricky “Jupe” Park, is told. It’s very unusual in that he is often presented as a side character, somebody who the central point-of-view characters interact with almost incidentally. Yet the film also places a great deal of dramatic focus on the defining trauma of his childhood, the horrific attack by the chimpanzee during the shooting of a sitcom in the 1990s. That experience leads him into an attempt to tame or control the monstrous flying creature that the main characters eventually name Jean Jacket. Peele doesn’t place him quite as the antagonist of the film but does make Park’s action part of the overall explanation for the sequence of events that the Heywood family experience.

Of course, there’s no actual explanation for Jean Jacket other than it is some sort of flying predatory creature. The initial compact shape of the monster is suggestive of a spacecraft but also something aquatic almost shark-like. The shift in understanding that the film is not Close Encounters but actually Jaws is part of what makes the film feel comfortably familiar and yet repeatedly surprising. When Jean Jacket becomes the more immense billowing form, the aquatic aspect is retained but the creature looks more like something that drifts and grazes through the sea, rather than the sleek monster seen earlier.

I also very much liked that the central characters, OJ and Em, were siblings. I’m surprised, on reflection, that more films don’t make use of the connection and conflict between siblings for key characters. What was really well observed here was the tension, the shared history, the internalised injustices (specifically over the horse Jean Jacket after whom the monster is eventually named) but also the easy relationship between the two. The schemes they concoct around the monster sometimes have the same feel as childhood mischief and pranks while also being adult reactions to both a threat and an opportunity. It’s a very plausible relationship between two quite different personalities who nevertheless have a lot in common. Of course, a great deal of that is down to how good Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer are as actors. Kaluuya plays the intensely introverted OJ in a way that emphasises that his own insecurity around people gives him additional insight into the anxieties of the animals he looks after.

It’s such a weird, thoughtful film that also manages to be a film with big action sequences and genuine scares.


5 responses to “Rewatching Nope [many spoilers]”

  1. I didn’t think the various elements fit together as well as you did. To me it was a random collection of ideas and characters that never coheres into anything (YMMV of course).
    As I like Peele’s previous movies (his Twilight Zone, not so much) I was greatly disappointed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah – I thought Get Out was brilliant, but his films since then (the first half of Us was superb, the second half kind of falls to pieces) seem much more concerned with presenting spectacular images (in this movie, a whole sequence of them) without any concern as to whether they fit into a coherent whole. And even more than Us, the plot of this film is filled with holes.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t much like Us either, but I love Nope, for many of the same reason you mention, Cam.


  3. Get Out is a genuine frickin’ masterpiece. Even when you figure out what the deal is, the rest of it is riveting.

    But Peele might be suffering from the dreaded “sophomore slump”. Or I guess “junior slump”. Lost his way a bit.

    Whatever, I hope he returns to better form. Simply having creepy and/or gorgeous images, good actors, and deservedly non-stereotypical Black people isn’t enough for many moviegoers. I’m sure he can do better; basically tighter scripting is all he needs.


    • Or, y’know, if he wants to do gorgeous yet plot-weak horror with good actors and great images, that’s fine too. But I wanted more.


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