Review: Dope

Dope Rick Famuyiwa returns to the director’s seat with his latest coming of age film, Dope, starring Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons, and Tony Revolori. Following the story of young kid who works tirelessly to avoid the stereotypical trappings of the rough streets of Los Angeles while applying to college, having a social life, and hanging with his two best friends. Famuyiwa is able to once again capture the unique perspective of the Black American experience to drive new life into a seemingly conventional story.

We meet Malcolm (Shameik Moore) as he is beginning his day as a regular senior in high school. He is by all conventions a nerdy outcast, and largely stays out of the mainstreams of school with his friends Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori) in tow. The three are obsessed with 1990s rap culture but simultaneously are in a modern day punk band together. Pushing against the notions of what is Blackness in the modern era is paramount to the message of the film, and its examined from numerous angles.

Malcolm has a passing crush on Nakia (Zoe Kravitz) and through a series of events finally talks to her. Caught between a drug dealer named Dom (A$AP Rocky) and the girl of his dreams, Malcolm goes to a party that is littered with the worst elements he is working to avoid. When a drug deal goes wrong, Malcolm finds himself in possession of some narcotics and the ball starts rolling from there. Throwing this young non-street wise kid into this situation is a highly familiar trope but Dope manages to make it more interesting. Diggy and Jib work as Malcolm’s conscience and instigators simultaneously which helps to raise the stakes. These three are the textbook example of the modern age; diverse in appearance but cohesive in their outlook and sensibilities.

As the trio runs around Los Angeles trying to escape drug dealers, gang members, and police we are along for the ride. The movie is not just funny, its hilarious. A wonderfully light hearted and poignant film. It swings back and forth between pure coming of age comedy and a story of what it’s like to be stuck between two worlds; between expectations and goals. Malcolm’s complexity as a character comes to light with every second the film continues. A nuanced performance by Shameik Moore helps to bring the character into full focus and connect with the audience.

Again, Shameik Moore puts on a hell of a performance as Malcolm. He is truly the standout actor here and I look forward to seeing more from him. Kiersey Clemons’s Diggy and Tony Revolori’s Jib aren’t the biggest roles but the two bring a sense of teenage adventure to the film. They both have excellent comedic timing and work well as the comedy relief for the movie when moments get a little heavy. The supporting actors all did a great job of rounding out the world in which director, Rick Famuyiwa, has created. In the end, Famuyiwa made a great coming of age story. In addition, he also made another Black film that systematically addresses the ways in which poor Black American kids in Malcolm’s position are viewed and what they have to endure to get to the same level as anyone else in America.

[easyreview title= "Review of Dope" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="5.0" overall= false]