90’s Nostalgia, Geek Culture, and High Top Fades Make “Dope”, Dope...Yo.
By Scott Kurland
Starring: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Blake Anderson, A$AP Rocky, and Zoe Kravitz
Director Rick Famuyiwa
Kurland’s PopCulture Dictionary:
Word: BLERD (Noun)
Definition: An African American nerd, commonly known as a black nerd. Distinguished by their love of comic books, music, films, nostalgic time period i.e. the 80s and 90s. They personify geek culture.
Examples: Donald Glover, Gregory Hines, and Kanye West are Blerds. For reference see the film “Dope”.
I’m just going to blurt it out, 2015 is the best year for cinema since 1994. In 1994 we got “Pulp Fiction,” “Ed Wood”, “Vanya On 42nd Street”, “Hoop Dreams”, “Clerks”, and “Bullets Over Broadway” all released weeks apart from one another in October. These are all grade A films.
However last weekend broke the record for releasing grade A film. On June 19th, three different studios released three grade A films. Disney Pixar released “Inside Out”, a massive achievement in animation. Fox Searchlight released “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl”, a John Hughes worthy masterpiece. Finally this week’s film “Dope” was released, and I’ll just come out a say it, it is absolutely delightful.
“Dope” is the story of Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a bright young blerd who lives in Inglewood, Californ-I-A. Malcolm and his two best friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) are not like the normal kids in the neighborhood. They are trapped in the 90s. Malcolm has a high top fade, and dresses like Kid N’ Play. Jib looks like he stole Dave Grohl’s Nirvana flannels. While Diggy could be a dead ringer for both TLC and Salt ‘n’ Peppa. They are bright kids who want to go to college. Problems arise when a local drug dealer (A$AP Rocky) hides a mountain of MOLLY in Malcolm’s backpack. Now these three geeks must sell it all or face the consequences....you know...murder.
“Dope” answered my life long question, what would “Boyz ‘N The Hood” look like if Wes Anderson directed it. That may sound like an insult, but it is said with nothing but respect for Rick Famuyiwa, and what he has created. Famuyiwa has been in Hollywood a long time , he’s directed “The Wood” a decent coming of age story and “Brown Sugar” which I always thought was an underrated film. “Dope” is his master opus, it is written and directed by him with so much love and appreciation for these characters. His commentary on geek culture, stereotypes, and being true to yourself has been done in other films to the point of tedium. Yet, Famuyiwa found a way to reinvent the wheel, his commentary is fresh and new with insight that is amazing and refreshing to watch.
I love the three leads starting with YouTube sensation Shameik Moore. This kid truly captures a kid of the 90s stuck in 2015. Everything he does from his mannerism, the way he speak, and lets not forget that glorious high top fade. Moore’s Malcolm evolves so much in the span of a two hour movie. In the beginning Malcolm is a nerd as pointed out by the narrator of the film played by Forrest Whitaker. This is due to Malcolms love for all things that white people like, you know comic books, T.V. on the Radio, and of course Donald Glover...damn they know us well. Moore then takes him into territory that is dark, it’s not like “Menance II Society” dark, but it is like “Poetic Justice” Tupac dark. This is a great first film for Moore, and I’m sure it will lead to bigger roles in the future.
“Dope” isn’t going to change society by any means, but we do get two strong female leads. First there’s Kiersey Clemon as Diggy, not only is she one of Malcolm’s best friends, but she’s a positive female role model. Clemons’ Diggy is a lesbian and the filmmakers along with Clemons show the struggles she goes through with her family and members of the community. She is called “Boys Don’t Cry”, they send here to church to “pray away the gay”, but she continues to be the out going girl she is. Clemons’ performance is subtle and sweet, but it is also a game changer performance.
The second strong female role is Zoe Kravitz as Nakia. I’ve been a big Kravitz fan of hers for years. She has the beauty of her mother Lisa Bonet, and the crazy cool status down like her dad Lenny. As Nakia, Kravitz has to be reserved and it is clear that her character screwed up in the past and is trying to make amends. Although she has less screen time then Moore, Revolori, and Clemons she knocks it out of the park.
“Dope” is full of great performances like A$AP Rocky and “The Grand Budapest Hotel’s” Tony Revolori. “Dope” is also just a great film, yes there were moments were it gets really dark, and I was more excited for the nerd plot line than I was for the drug dealing plot. Even when I thought I was being led down a cliche path, Famuyiwa found away to twist it into something different. I loved this movie, and the fact it was the third of three very strong releases in one day, I have hope for the future of film. “Dope” is a must see and you will not be disappointed.
REVIEW RATING: A-