Dope begins with an onscreen definition, satirically highlighting ‘dope’ as slang for stupidity, drugs and something cool.
Often, such presentations are merely enforced to reiterate missing satire and comedy, yet with praise, Dope achieves to add to its already present humour and eccentricity.
Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is the 90’s hip-hop driven teenage geek at the epicenter of Rick Famuyiwa’s coming of age comedy/crime/drama. Alongside his two equally unfortunate best friends, Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons), they mistakenly venture into the dangerous world of Inglewood CA’s drug dealers and gangsters after a chance invitation to an underground party misguides them along a dangerous path.
Although unconventionally, Famuyiwa successfully creates a stereotypical evaluation of the effects of dope and violence on tough lower class neighborhoods and Malcolm’s desire to follow his dream and attend Harvard University, regardless of the little hope for success in the life of a kid from the ‘bottom’. Malcolm’s backpack is unknowingly spiked with ecstasy and weapons from his newly befriended drug dealer Dom (A$ap Rocky). With his life on the line, Malcolm is forced to sell the possession of drugs, while things continue to get out of hand for himself and everyone with whom he comes into contact.
There has been an endless buzz surrounding Dope since its release at the 2015 Sundance Festival (Here, we get Sundance’s rundown of the film), which was at the time shadowed by the release of Alfonzo Gomez-Rejon’s ‘Me Earl and the Dying Girl’.
Not to my surprise, I now understand why there has been an influx of interest in Famuyiwa’s Dope. The film’s unique charm comes from its enticing hip-hop soundtrack, dropping beats from classic hip-hop 90’s artists such as Naughty by Nature and Nas, not to forget original scores from executive producer Pharrell Williams, which is sung by Malcolm, Diggy and Jibb in their punk band ‘Awreeoh’. However, the film goes way beyond its awesome soundtrack.
It’s witty and hilarious energy is rested on the comic timing between the central trio, carrying the film effortlessly, infusing a dynamic fast-paced excitement throughout the film’s first half, where we get invited into a blast from the past with references through elaborate clothing and sidesplitting dialogue to Will Smith’s Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Unfortunately, the latter disappointingly succumbs to a slow lull, where we see the character’s flatten out and become somewhat disinteresting.
Diggy is ‘the lesbian’, and Jib is ‘the coward’, neither character without much depth or other emotions.
There were some scenes where I doubted Famuyiwa’s writing decisions that posed as very dry and predictable. Saying that, most of the dialogue incorporated a blend between the awkwardness of being a teen, the tough love of being on ‘the bottom’ and acute one-liners that mocked the various circumstances to a painfully funny degree.
Shameik Moore produces an outstanding performance to open up his character Malcolm, the discomfited, horny, teenage protagonist, drawing the audience close and supplying him with layers of interesting and surprising feelings and emotions, not getting caught up in a one-dimensional character. Moore makes Malcolm into a real person rather than drawing on a single geeky mannerism. In one of his strongest scenes, he talks fearfully with a shaken tone, frightened that he is becoming someone he was trying to avoid, while at the same time stiffening his posture and standing in an all-authoritative position, recognizing his need to take on this wretched persona to inflict strength in his time of need.
Despite some moments where it seems as though the film is disingenuous and trying too hard to convey its point, the overall aesthetic ties in nicely to create a cheeky and exciting atmosphere.
Dope is a quirky, indie, journey of life, feature film that thankfully separated itself from others through a comical stance on stereotypes that other writers are scared to get themselves into and tend stand clear from. On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed most of the performances, stylish impression, comical relief and most of all the amazing hip-hop soundtrack.