Dope – 4.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

dopeDope – 4.5/5 – Inventive is a word use to describe something that is genuine in its creation even if the concepts are novel.   When it comes to inventive films, they can come from any genre/style of directing.  No matter if its CGI created world, dramatically enticing tale or horrifying suspenseful journey, anything can be inventive.  Sometimes, this happens with coming-of-age films.  With an inventive eye, we have our film Dope.  On the surface, it looks like you’re ‘run-of-the-mill’ teenager styled film.  Coming out; you will realize that this film is a lot more than just about being a teenager.  In the End; Dope is a smart and witty look at the complex ideas of what is ‘on the surface’ is not always the right kind of judgment.

Premise: Malcolm is a geek trying to survive the tough life of his neighborhood. Through an invitation to an underground party leads to a dire situation, Malcolm and his friends my traverse Los Angeles on a crazy adventure, learning to find out what it takes to break the ‘norms’ of society but staying steady fast on the ultimate goal.

At the heart of this film is the character Malcolm.  He is played by up and coming actor Shameik Moore.   In this role, Moore provides a wealth of outstanding and unique complexion to define this character.  He is a young black teenager growing up southern Los Angeles.  He has an obsession with 90s culture and hip hop; consistently focused on school work and attempting to get into an Ivy League school.  His complexion is completely riveting in his refreshing acting.  He provides a multi-layer depth that shows the strength of how someone can still be ‘smart’ and break trends of a society that pretends that ‘he’ cannot exist a certain way.  Along with him, his friends provide the same wealth of uniqueness that make their characters stand out as individuals among the plenty.  Playing his best friends are:

Klersey Clemons as Diggy

Tony Revolori as Jib

I will only reiterate that they do a great job as much as Moore in the role of Malcolm.  Their dynamic as friends creates a complimentary kind of sensation; one that breeds familiarity within a stand out approach.  There influences of something ‘outside’ of the norms helps add layers to the character’s personality.  When it comes to the rest of the cast in the film, there is a whole list of known names in the secondary cast; which you can reference on the IMDB page.   In short, you have a lot of great colorful additions, but mostly ‘typical’ caricatures within them.  It is the kind of acting that references typecast characters; reflecting the ordinary surroundings of the environment of southern part of Los Angeles.

The direction is laid out in a very typical linear path.  You have your ‘introductory’ prologue to the characters; environment and story elements.  Along with the general intro, you get a lot of whimsical references to 90’s culture, as well as the ‘oddness’ of Malcolm going against the grain.  As we move from this through the first act, we get a lot of character development, witty dialogue and social exposition that uses smart references to relationships, family and environment.  It gives us situations that will consistently present the theme of what is ‘expected’ and what you can ‘achieve’.  Malcolm (as mentioned above) is a 90’s culture aficionado.  He also has strong moral focus and work ethic.  You know he will go the extra mile to succeed and break all the stigma of what people think he can’t do.  It is a welcomed approach to storytelling because it provides contrast to the typical nature of our society.  It takes a lot of themes of a traditional ‘coming-of-age’ tale but mixes in ‘modern ideals of society’.  You get this combination with the wonderfully enticing script, which takes this ‘idea of atypical’ stature and creates a situation of dire circumstances for Malcolm and his friends; which introduces the ‘Mcguffin’ plot device.  This takes our characters on an unpredictable and slightly twisted journey through the crazy streets of Los Angeles.  At this point, most audience would see something that leads into that typical ‘quest’ kind of situation that’s driven by cliché and predictable direction.  That is not what happens.  Because of the slow introduction to the world created here as well as the individualistic nature of the main characters; you get to see a double layer to this common situation.  Even though our characters are struck with making ‘bad choices’ (one after another) and dealing with a ‘quest’ kind of path; the complexion of whom they are adds another kind of twist to the journey.  These kids are smart, witty and know how to be calculative in dire circumstances.  The tension is built from this kind of spin, showing that even in a ‘cliché’ kind of scenario; there can be ‘outside of the box’ thinking.  As we travel through the second act, It takes the coming-of-age tale and fuses it with an ‘adventure/comical’ journey.  There is a great mix of witty dialogue, foolery scenario and smart complexion that shows the film’s awareness of social context, prejudice and individual perseverance.  There is a broader sense of the cultural and sexual orientation when it comes to society, and it is done in a way where it isn’t blunt or beaten in repetition.  It is provided through the cast of characters, taking you to think of that common statement of ‘what is expected’ to ‘what you can achieve’.   We see that Malcolm must find a way to keep his ‘ideal’ situation of life intact, while trying to get rid of the ‘Mcguffin’ item that is holding him and friends hostage to the main other characters in the film.   As we head into the third act, the films colorful and sometimes ‘original’ complexion of society is brought down a notch.  This is from the very obnoxious plot device of ‘it is all connected’.  This overused device adds a generalized sensation to the film’s journey. Even when we have a predictable ‘happy’ kind of ending, it is also ironic because of the unique take on that happy ending.  With no spoilers, what it does is bring in context of the ‘what we expect’ and ‘what you can achieve’ statement that is a cloud over this film.  It presents it with a great rhetorical question that forces you to think of the true answer.  It also brings into context of what truly is ‘coming of age’.  Is it just growing up or taking on all the odds and coming out different.  The ominous kind of feeling turns the ‘happy’ ending into something much, much more.

The visuals of the film are aesthetic in nature.  The use of keeping things ‘grounded’ to the real streets of Los Angeles creates a place of authenticity.  The lighting and ‘reverse’ camera angles used helps flip the way we ‘follow’ the film, but doesn’t add enough to spice up the colorful story and characters.  The score is a mix bag of old ’90’s’ music with scenarios, but doesn’t do much but appeal to nostalgia.

Dope is truly an inventive film. It takes what we expect, and adds another kind of layer to the journey and ‘coming-of-age’ themes.  If you’re looking for something that will be wonderfully comical, enjoyable but also show a different light on society, this is an indie film.  A great night a theaters, one you will not be disappointed by.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *