Movie Review: “Dope” – Literally and Figuratively

Written by Samah Ali July 13, 2015

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Writer-director Rick Famuyiwa comes out with the latest instalment casting a spotlight on black students. “Dope” adds to the list of corky films that defy the average black kid’s life in Inglewood, California, but also manages to fall into stereotypes with secondary characters. The flick is (literally and figuratively) dope and has a bumping soundtrack that keeps the light mood along with extraordinary acting and incredible cinematography, but “Dope’s” storyline ends up being more elaborate than necessary.

Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a straight A student who loves 90’s Rap music and playing in a punk band with his two best friends Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori). The three self-proclaimed nerds manage to get into their local drug dealer’s, Dom (A$AP Rocky), birthday party and end up leaving with a large supply of MDMA. What follows is a series of schemes and shenanigans around southern California as Malcolm, Diggy, and Jib try to relocate the proper owner of the drugs.

“Someone needs to invent an app like ‘Ways’ to avoid these hood traps.”

Famuyiwa produced a golden script that could make any actor soar. The writing is wickedly talented and was brought to life by equally talented smaller actors – although you may recognize Revolori from “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. Moore, Clemons and Revolori are brilliant and witty, bringing fresh comedic voices and chemistry to the screen.

Famuyiwa also branched out and casted differently talented celebrities overshadowed by other ventures. Zoë Kravitz and Quincy Brown flexed their acting chops and proved they’re more than their Instagram pages (and celebrity parents). Chanel Iman and A$AP Rocky also put on convincing performances as a daddy’s girl and a drug dealer; needless to say, by the end of “Dope” the cast was practically synonymous with their characters.

 

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But no one stole the show as much as the cinematography. Southern California has never looked so beautiful: wide shots of Clemons, Moore, and Revolori with lines of palm trees not only set the beach-like vibe, but also makes “Dope” an easily mistaken movie made in the 90s. It’s safe to say Famuyiwa misses the 90’s Hip Hop scene and fashion because “Dope” is a love letter to the decade.

“You go to high school in Inglewood. You think you’re going to get into Harvard?”

However this love letter gets quite lost along the way since most of the characters introduced do not have a resolution. The storyline primarily focuses on Malcolm’s conquest to go to a prestigious university — Harvard in particular. But the storyline gets lost within the multifaceted plot that keeps diving into more and more subplots. It’s cute, but it’s hard to keep up and most of the characters at the beginning play tired stereotypical rolls. But after the halfway point, Moore, Clemons, and Revolori’s characters kick it into gear and bring “Dope’s” elaborate story line back to its original destination. Something to wait for is Malcolm’s monologue at the end, which explicitly brings the story full circle to the dream of attending Harvard.

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“Dope” is a definitely the perfect movie for a fun, carefree summer day, but it’s twists and turns make it hard to keep up. The layered storyline gets chaotic and several characters are left open-ended. But the endless shots of Malcolm, Jiggy, and Dig cruising around Inglewood masks the confusion and steers the adventure into an enjoyable band room filled with punk rock and 90’s music. Regardless, “Dope” is pretty dope. Watch it for the cinematography, but stay for the acting.

Rating: 8/10

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About Samah Ali

Samah Ali

With a deep admiration for film, television, and music, Samah spends most of her free time expressing and sharing her love for the arts. Studying Creative Writing at Western University, she enjoys writing about film & music and shapes her passions with the latest movie or album available.

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