Nope, Jordan Peele’s third film as writer-director, following his zeitgeist-capturing Get Out and complex, ambitious Us, invites its audience to speculate on audiences and spectacle. The kinds of things it wants us to think about are clear, and we discuss its themes of commercialised tragedy, fear of the audience, and photography as truth, among others – but what it has to say about them is at best muddled, and, more frankly, disappointingly uncritical. Like Peele’s previous films, Nope is a terrific conversation starter, but unlike them, its contribution to that conversation is weak.
A gentle drama about Korean immigrants making a life for themselves in 1980s Arkansas, Minari‘s tone is consistently light, despite some of the upsetting events that occur. Mike argues that it reflects a child’s perspective of life, protected by their parents from the worst of life, or simply not understanding the darkness in what they experience – writer-director Lee Isaac Chung based the film on his own upbringing on a farm in Arkansas. José identifies strongly with the story, commenting on the similarities and differences with his youth as a Spanish immigrant to Canada. Minari is a good-natured film with no room for cynicism, and, for José, a joyous experience to watch.
The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link.
Peter Kim George has a wonderful piece on the film that amongst many other riches also touches on the issue of casting, which is becoming a recurring concern of mine. He writes, ‘
Another issue is that Steven Yeun is miscast as Jacob. He is miscast for the same reason he was so superbly cast in Okja and Burning — Yeun’s bodily mannerisms and speech are American through and through. By mannerisms, I mean those dimensions of culture and nationality that trickle into the most basic, lived instincts of how one sits in a chair or expresses hesitation. In Okja and Burning, it imbues a hybrid otherness to his character, which works so well in Bong’s and Lee’s films, respectively. Chung notes in an interview that he had originally imagined the role of Jacob for someone from Korea.
Still, it is difficult to write that Yeun is miscast in Minari, for several reasons. One, a mostly non-Korean viewership (still a remarkable feat in itself for a non-English language film) is unlikely to notice that Yeun quite obviously does not fit the mold of a man who comes of age in 1960s and 70s South Korea, so why bring it up? Add to which how prominently Yeun features in the film’s marketing and press — a Korean actor may have been a better fit, but certainly would not have given Minari its visibility. ‘
Also Kevin B. Lee has produced a very interesting video essay some of you may want to follow up on.