A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Rick Famuyiwa
Produced By: Basil Iwanyk, Thad Luckinbill, Molly Smith
Written By: Rick Famuyiwa
Starring: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Ciemons
Running Time: 103 Minutes
A nostalgia trip that seems all too relatable in the present day, for many audiences of a similar age to the leads, Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope may appear strange but simultaneously thought provoking. The film is strange in the sense that it’s a hark back to the style, vibe and culture of yesteryear, but feels like a vintage piece from many decades before with a modern flare attached.
It reminds us that we’re getting older and the ’90s are not that recent anymore.
Lead by an unfamiliar cast (with the exception of The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Tony Revolori and Mad Max’s Zoë Kravitz), Dope is believable, rich and refreshing in several aspects of its surprisingly multi-layered structure.
Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is an African American geek obsessed with 90’s culture. From his record collection to his dress sense, even to his straight angular haircut, Malcolm is very much stuck in an era of two decades ago, or at least he wishes he was.
With his two closest friends Jib (Reveolori) and Diggy (Kersey Clemons), life for the three is is one of routine, relaxation and straight-A’s at school. After getting involved with the wrong crowd at a party, Malcolm attends school the following day to find that his backpack has been filled with a large quantity of drugs.
Alarmed, confused and paranoid, Malcolm and his friends try their best to dispose of the narcotics in the cleanest, safest way possible, however once word has got out about missing gear, the three find themselves in a sticky web of trouble that is immensely difficult to process and escape from.
The plot sounds solid enough from the synopsis, however it’s through watching the picture unfold that more of the thematic elements are established and presented. Dope is more than a teen quirky comedy. There are elements of drama, violence and aggression peppered throughout the film, addressing the parable for larger, more important issues of today.
Observations of culture, gender, race and socio-economics are what make up this smaller release, however Dope is anything but understated.
For something rather low-key in its initial appearance, Dope becomes something much bigger, broader and challenging towards the final act, addressing the aforementioned themes in explicit, confronting detail.
Malcolm as a character is wonderfully diverse. At a cross roads in his life, the paths he chooses to travel down lead him to countless crossroads more.
Friendly, shy, independent and focused, Malcolm’s ark is significant and sizeable, whilst the performance of Shameik Moore is simply sensational. He is down-to-earth, modest and “Just Malcolm”.
A key focal point of his character is his dreams of going to Harvard. This raises several issues regarding the previously listed themes which serves as a foundation for the true story at hand, and through engrossing back-and-forth dialogue scenes between Malcolm and a sceptical academic, these issues are quite literally brought to the table.
The soundtrack of the film is, well, dope!
Introducing audiences to a wide range of undiscovered hiphop classics, the soundtrack is simply infectious and a perfect counterpart to the story. Experimental, diverse and unique, the soundtrack is guaranteed to have audience members back for a second listen. Featuring an array of original songs written by executive producer Pharrell Williams, Dope’s soundtrack may very well be the most fitting, fulfilling and impressive soundtrack of 2015.
Dope tackles several themes head on and presents a strong intent and message to match. Notwithstanding the tapering off towards the conclusion of the second act and the beginning of the third, Dope is for the most part a genuinely enjoyable picture.
Superb characters with even more superb performances bringing the characters to life make Dope a particularly investable story while the accompanying soundtrack guide the film along flawlessly in that regard.
A film most likely to go unnoticed and unappreciated from here on in, Dope is well worth your while, particularly for younger adult demographic.