Dope

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Damn! Just, damn! I’d heard a lot about this film. It rocked the festival circuit and then sort of petered out in distribution. The marketing for it was horrible. While this is definitely a movie about “the hood” it is also a riff on “my bad day” and other similar plots. It manages to stay true to its origins, but flourishes as a dark comedy/caper film. Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa really hit it out of the park on almost every count. By the end, it even evokes a bit of slam poetry I saw recently.

At the heart of the cast is Shameik Moore. He provides a range of emotion and decisions that pull you along and keep you pushing for his success, even when the decisions are questionable.

His crew is comprised of a solid supporting cast. Tony Revolori (Grand Budapest Hotel) feels a bit forced, but seems comfortable in his skin (as much as the character does anyway). Kiersey Clemons (Transparent) has a blast with her part, though she doesn’t get as much screen time as might have been fun.

The female focus of this film is primarily on Zoe Kravitz (Good Kill), who glows in her part. Kravitz is utterly captivating but very much in place. With barely a nod she evokes a history that is never actually covered or revealed. Even the antics and brave effort by Chanel Iman can’t eclipse her charisma.

Fumuyiwa took a fairly standard plot and turned it into something lyrical, mimicking the rap that drives his young protags. The editing and energy won’t let you look away, and the sense of humor makes the most painful moments tolerable and understandable, even at their extremes. It is a surprising and entertaining film that feels fresher than it really is, but that is part of its very deserved success. If you thought you had no interest in this story, you’re wrong (that’s the marketing problem it faced). The story here is universal, only the trappings and environment are new. Make time for it, you’ll be surprised.

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