By C.M.F. Hedemark
Let’s talk about Jordan Peele.
He’s a household name, well revered for film masterpieces such as “Get Out” and “Us.” He’s a genre-mixer. A contemporary commentator of social issues (focused particularly on those surrounding race). Nominated for four Oscars and eight Emmys, Peele is also a critical darling of the motion picture community.
When “Nope,” his most recent project, was announced to come out on July 22, the whole world held its breath in anticipation.
With its release came a whiplash of mixed reviews.
The Guardian’s Mark Kermode scathingly remarks that “Peele’s ability to balance these intriguing ideas with the brutally kinetic demands of blockbuster cinema is more uncertain, making this a better movie to argue about than to watch.”
On the other hand, a New York Times article states that “[Jordan Peele] is an artist with the freedom and confidence to do whatever he wants to, and one who knows how to challenge audiences without alienating them.”
Critics aren’t the only ones leaving “Nope” with a crease in their brow. Many general audiences were likewise torn. For some, it was an overwhelming joyride, while others got trapped in the whirlwind of Jordan Peele’s mind, slipping past his subtlety.
“Nope” in of itself is a solid movie. The characters are loveable and layered and Kiki Palmer gives a particularly riveting performance as Emerald Haywood. Peele’s own ability to craft a screenplay is as sharp as ever: the idea of using these characters as a way to portray the spectacle of Hollywood (my personal interpretation of the film), as well as the little snippets of dealing with true trauma, make this movie a unique and slightly unsettling watch.
Yet, I still cannot help but feel there’s some key detail missing in all of this. Why this excellent movie is so polarizing for so many audiences?
To say that Peele’s debut movie was a success is an understatement. “Get Out” was nominated for four Oscars (including Best Picture). Not only was it critically acclaimed, it also brought forth a large cultural shift in the horror genre of cinema with it’s potent message on the racial divide and power imbalance within the United States.
Although Peele has stated many times that he loves the work he did on “Get Out”, there is still the inescapable fact that this culture-altering film seems to shadow over every other project he has created since then.
The fact that no one is willing to admit is that it is because of “Get Out” that Peele’s work has been so harshly judged, indicates that sometimes it is difficult for the majority to let go of past projects by the artist that we love.
And that sometimes, we need to just shut up and enjoy the movie.