Coming to theatres this Friday from writer/director Jordan Peele, Monkeypaw Productions and Universal Pictures is the big NOPE.
The Haywood family has a history with horses that dates back farther than anyone knew. Training horses for television and films, patriarch Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David) keeps the isolated ranch running. That is until something unusual happens to change the dynamic of the family.
Son OJ Haywood (Daniel Kaluuya) is working hard to keep the farm going as well with the sometimes help of sister Emerald (Keke Palmer). While in the middle of their usual brother and sister banter, OJ notices something in the sky that is odd. Using their outdated ranch cameras to see it, Emerald has a big idea.
Down the road is Ricky ‘Jupe’ Park (Steven Yeun), once child star who met with some strangeness of his own and now runs a desert theme park. OJ sometimes has to sell a horse or two to get buy and Jupe is accommodating with his latest acquisition of Lucky.
When Emerald gets a big idea, she calls Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott), a renowned camera man to see if he would be interested in getting ‘the shot’. When that does not really pan out, OJ and Emerald turn to Angel Torres (Brandon Pera) to update their cameras and get them set up. That’s when Angel realizes there is something going on at this ranch.
When an afternoon performance as Jupe’s place turns bizarre and the story breaks on the news, Antlers realizes that Emerald might be right. OJ, Emerald and Angel, after a night of horror, begin to understand what they are fighting and what it will take to win and want to get it all on film.
Kalyyua as OJ is more the quiet of the brother-sister duo. He speaks when he needs to and is the observant one. Putting the pieces together is what he is good at which can be difficult when working with a squirrely sister and a chatty tech guy. Kalyyua gives a straight up performance yet Peele knew he could since his role in the 2017 film GET OUT.
Palmer is the mouthy out of control sister Emerald that always has something to say but most of it is just rolls out irritatingly. Kalyyua’s OJ knows he can not expect anything in the way of help with work or even keeping the ranch running because she has wild ideas yet none of them are in play. This is a different role for Palmer and she gets it done.
Pera as Angel is bored with his life as a Fry’s tech and finds what is going on with the Haywood’s so interesting and worth returning again and again. When he sees what is out on the ranch, he wants to help even though his courage is a little out of whack.
Wincott as Antlers is that craggy voiced, self-indulgent photographer who wants the ultimate on film and the rest of it is all boring. Realizing what is happening at the Haywood ranch, he might have found something less boring!
Yeun as Jupe has his own creepy story to tell about being a child star which fascinates Emerald. He is working equally as hard to keep his little theme park going and will do whatever it takes to keep the doors open – its that ‘anything’ that is the problem.
Other cast include Wrenn Schmidt as Amber Park, Donna Mills as Bonnie Clayton, Barbie Ferreira as Nessie, Oz Perkins as Fynn Bachman, Devon Graye as Ryder Muybridge, Jacob Kim as Young Ricky, Sophia Coto as Mary Jo Elliott, Terry Notary as Gordy, Andrew Patrick as Tom Bogan, Eddie Jemison as Buster and Jennifer Lafleur as Phyllis.
So, (taking a deep breath), I know I am supposed to just rave about this film because its Jordan Peele but all I can say is ‘meh’. There are moments I give a nod to but after two hours and fifteen minutes I just wanted to get out of my seat. The problem with saying more is that I do not want to give anything away in case it is someone else’s’ cup of tea.
The plot had the potential to be so creative but it gets bogged down with other stuff that felt more like a lecture than an enjoyable time at the movies. The twists and turns just irritated me and all I could scream in my head is ‘why…Why…WHY?’
Seriously, this could have been so much fun for a summer film and I’m sure it will make a lot of money because, and let’s be honest, the push is insane. That’s what you do when there is not a lot coming down the pipeline. I feel like this is the director’s having hit a speed bump, or as I like to call it an M. Knight Shyamalan moment. Meaning Shyamalan hit a speed bump with THE HAPPENING and THE LAST AIRBENDER and he came back swinging.
Did I want to like it? Of course! I enjoyed GET OUT and US so what this tells me is that Peele has stories to tell and is able to tell them but with NOPE he should have really thought out more. If I am spending more time hearing people say ‘I don’t get this mess at all’ or ‘that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back’, then I feel less crazy about how I am feeling about it.
Honestly, my opinion probably does not make sense but that’s what happens when trying not to tell more of the story without ruining it. Oh well. Perhaps I will give it time for people to see and THEN we can talk detail and why I ended up laughing at certain scenes.
In the end – it is all about the nope!