Jerrod Carmichael
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Jordan Peele's Masterful Nope Gives Keke Palmer Her Best Stage Yet

keke palmer in nope

Editor's note: this review contains spoilers for Universal Picture's Nope.

Nobody knows that America loves a spectacle like Jordan Peele, and in Nope, he shows off that he’s the perfect filmmaker to examine that.

Nope follows siblings, OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Em (Keke Palmer) as they try to keep their family horse ranch afloat after the sudden and mysterious death of their father. One night when the two are bonding together, a horse gets out, and when OJ goes to take care of it, he sees a UFO.

For the rest of the film, the siblings – along with the help of a customer service guy from a tech store and a famous cinematographer – try to capture an “Oprah Shot” of the alien, earning money and fame. It all culminates in a thrilling and action-packed third act that will have you on the edge of your seat, as OJ and Em realize they haven’t been dealing with an alien spacecraft, but some sort of wild alien predator (not the kind from the movie Prey, but the kind that will only attack if you make eye contact).

There’s also a subplot involving former child star Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), who survived a rampaging attack from his chimp costar as a child, and is now trying to put on his own show of the alien creature feeding at the ranch theme park he now runs as an adult.

This is Peele’s most ambitious movie, and he completely nails it. It’s Jaws for the 21st Century. It’s a masterpiece of horror and science fiction, and it has one of the best third acts I've ever seen.

The creature design for Peele’s alien animal is amazing, incorporating imagery from classic flying saucers, deep-sea creatures like squids, feather stars, and jellyfish, and even elements of an eye and camera lenses, hinting at the movie’s twist all along.

While the movie is great as a horror/creature feature, Peele always makes a strong statement, and that’s true here. We’re obsessed with spectacles and feeding our morbid curiosity – just the fact that we love horror movies is evidence of that – but sometimes our obsession leads to our downfall.

The movie shows that looking for the biggest spectacle and the perfect shot, and being the first one on the scene, can all lead to disastrous results. Not even Ricky, the former child star who witnessed a close up rampage from his chimp co-star couldn’t resist doing another animal act once he grew up.

Peele also discusses Hollywood’s treatment of Black people, as the Haywood family “has had skin in the game” since the beginning of motion pictures due to their great-great-great-great-great grandfather being the Black jockey in the famous set of images The Horse in Motion. But still, they struggle to get jobs or respect.

Peele is an actor’s director, always able to get the best performances out of his stars, and here, he and Keke Palmer have collaborated to create something magical. Em Haywood, OJ’s hard hustling sister is a queer supehero for 2022. She’s cool, she’s sexy, she’s smart, she’s got swagger, and she can ride a motorcycle.

She’s a powerhouse in the movie, if the movie is Jaws for the new generation, she’s Richard Dreyfuss. I would love to see her as one of this year’s Oscar nominees.

By throwing in just a few lines of dialogue about flirting and sleeping with women to an already brilliant character, Peele and Palmer have created a new iconic lesbian. She even gets to do an Akira motorcycle slide! I want to see girls dress up as her for Halloween this year and for years to come. 

While Get Out is Peele’s best film, Nope has become my new favorite of his. He’s proven that he’s the best American director of his generation and is just three films into his career. Just imagine what spectacles we’ll see from him next!

Nope is currently in theaters.

RELATED | Keke Palmer Says She's Not Stuck to One Label When It Comes to Her Sexuality

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