Some movies can be enchanting, others creepy, others funny, and still others just plain weird.
When he sat down to write the script for “No!”, Jordan Peele (“Run!”, “Us”) clearly wanted a pinch of each of these ingredients, mixing the film genres to the consistency of the most incomprehensible cinema allegory possible.
More with the trailer for “No!” it was not clear what the direction of the film would be. Western? Horror? Science fiction? Social satire? And the most interesting thing is that even after watching it, you will have a hard time answering this question.
The structure of “No!” is highly fragmentary, shaped like a puzzle. Each of the separate parts bears a certain name, without necessarily taking over the narrative of the previous story, sometimes in a completely new concept.
It might show the exploitative side of the movie industry towards animals, it might poke fun at those self-respecting Americans who strive at least once in their lives to take a passable picture of a UFO to show on television, and it might try to scared you, at least with the first part of its plot.
The unifying figure in these themes is Ojay (Daniel Kaluuya), a ranch owner with horses that he supplies as guest stars for various movie productions. His sister Emerald (Kiki Palmer), much more social, with a light personality, who creates a bridge between the trainers and the directors, helps him in the business.
In contrast to her, Ojay looks from under the eyebrows at the people behind the camera, and from his body language it is read that he does not like the attitude of the film crew towards the horse that will assist an actress who criminally overdoes the hairspray.
Negligence, however, is only one hand. There is a deeper reason for Ojay’s quirks. His father died because of a coin that fell from the sky and landed in his eye, and after his death, the ranch sinks into a financial hole, and Ojay, who only knows how to train animals, does not see how he will crawl out of it.
But very soon he understands that a person can have bigger problems than monetary misfortunes. One evening, while searching for one of the runaway horses, Ojay sees an object that looks like the classic flying saucers we are all familiar with. Bewildered by the sight, he immediately shares with his sister, and the two decide that the logical course of action is to take a quality shot of the spaceship and send it to Oprah’s show.
Because of the humor and actions of the characters, it is possible to get the impression that “No!” skipped the horror part, but that’s not true. They are there, albeit in the function of flashbacks instead of a main storyline.
The sound mix is among the best that horror has known, and the suspenseful scenes are inspired by the master of this work – Alfred Hitchcock. You get the feeling that something horrible is about to happen, and when it does, it’s more horrible than you imagined.
It can be seen that when Peele decides to imitate, he follows in the footsteps of the best and has no interest in following his old visionary approaches.
In “Run!” for example, he used the cramped setting (whether it was an actual lack of space or the irrational feeling of having no way out) to create fear. A relevant and effective tactic, since claustrophobic terror is natural to almost everyone.
But in “No!” the director turns over a new page. Here, what should scare you is the wide space. The shots are spacious and picturesque, a standard frame for the IMAX theater. And although they look beautiful, the camera movement shows that too much staring is life-threatening.
In contrast to the first-class cinematography, the script is a conceptual hole, and it seems that this was deliberately created by Jordan Peele. In the first lack of logical connection, you can say that it is a routine error, in the second – that someone in the chain read the text vertically, but in the third and fourth it is clear that this is a manner for the whole film.
Peele strives to confuse the messages so that none of them go to extremes and at the same time leaves his film sitting on only one narrative branch – something scary in the sky haunts me. No depth and no consistency.
If you’ve seen Run! and “Us”, you will understand that this creative mess did not come from a lack of talent. Peel is more likely to open the door to personal criticism and reflection. Audience members can look for messages, each guided by their own personal life prism, and argue through moments in the film, because, as already made clear, it has everything.
Literary criticism of this kind of work usually says that “the author drew on a wide range of influences.” In books, the mixing of themes with a variation of varieties is normal, because they do not compete with time, but in films this practice of a cocktail of essential ideas is rarely seen.
In “No!” you have a little bit of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a little bit of Jaws, and a little bit of Us. You also have Daniel Kaluuya and Kiki Palmer making a believable brother-sister pair, wandering between stories that don’t have a well-grounded beginning or a meaningful end.
It’s easy to respect directors like Jordan Peele because they make movies for their own enjoyment, not driven by the desire for box-office profits or the traditional composition of plot, climax and denouement. That’s why I also like David Lynch, although apart from Twin Peaks I’m not a big fan of his work.
Peele is one of Hollywood’s rare breed who manage to juggle the principles of art and commerce. But whether “No!” will be able to meet the audience’s expectations – look again at the title of the film.
The premiere of “No!” is in theaters August 19.