Scene it: But did I understand it? ‘Nope’

Daniel Kaluuya stars in Nope, a film about a ranch visited by a mysterious UFO (Courtesy: IMAX / Universal Pictures)

As much as it pains me to say it, it turns out there is such a thing as too much ambiguity for a mainstream movie.

On occasion, I like a film with a nice vague ending — one that leads to endless debates and theories that make you feel smarter than you are. Indeed, this was my feeling right out of the theater after watching “Nope.”

“Explain it to me!” demanded one friend, while another scoured the web for the significance of a shoe eerily standing upright amidst a murder. We turned to the movie’s Wikipedia page, seeking guidance from the Internet’s best critics. However, even they were inconclusive, spearfishing themes in the hopes of latching onto something concrete. Spectacle. Exploitation. Racism. Biblical allusions. Capitalism.

I am sure that Jordan Peele, in all of his creative genius, did include all of these, and he intended to provoke all of the subsequent debates, as his previous movies certainly accomplished. But I couldn’t deny it; I left “Nope” feeling the same way I left its Wikipedia page: half-satisfied.

To provide some non-spoiler context, “Nope” is a sci-fi horror film that takes place on a horse ranch owned by two siblings. Their horse-training business isn’t doing so well, but one day, they see a UFO on the ranch: an opportunity for profit. That is, if they don’t get eaten first.

However, the plot gives rise to question after question to the point of distraction. The mystery kept building, but there was never the release of explanation; the movie ended on a plateau of unanswered problems.

Why a UFO on that ranch, and why does it not like eye contact? Why include the Gordy subplot in this story? Why was the shoe left standing upright? Why put Barbie Ferreira in a movie and only give her five lines? Just kidding, I know the answer to that one — I was just hoping they would use her for more than her star power.

Not every question has to be answered in a movie, but the audience has to be given something. Adequate reasoning for one or two of these questions, perhaps, in order to give the viewer a good show.

“Nope” proclaims itself as a critique on exploiting the spectacle, but then uses the format of a blockbuster movie, with big name actors, impressive special effects and extensive marketing to do so. With its emphasis on larger meanings at the expense of clarity, “Nope” ventures into the territory of art house films. This is a perfectly acceptable aim for a piece of art, but a bit too hard-to-digest for the quick consumption model of a standard box-office horror film.

Don’t get me wrong, I was absolutely entranced by the visuals of this movie. Even if major plot points failed to deliver gratification, the skillful contrast of old and new — flashes of neon in the dust of the desert, Keke Palmer’s stunning retro outfits and her character’s badass attitude, a UFO on a horse ranch — were welcome points of diversion.

And, I must admit, the image of a bloodthirsty chimpanzee has really stuck with me this past week — the sign of a good horror film.

Flawless aesthetics and chilling murder scene aside, ultimately, the movie’s blend of art house ideals in a commercial package came across as confusing for the movie-goer expecting the climactic experience that is “Get Out.”

Rorye Jones PO ’22 gaslit herself into thinking she was part of the Roy family after she was spiritually wrecked from watching “Succession” in two weeks while in New York, and spent the rest of her time there aggressively staring down every suited pedestrian (there were a lot) in search of Matthew Macfadyen. She writes for TSL’s TV and film columns. 


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