Rick Famuyiwa's Dope is a seamlessly small story, wrapped in a much larger overall scope, conquering both the fears of a young man trying to find his own way, with a powerful cry for equality. It's a thought provoking and emotional journey, packed with a killer soundtrack.
There has never been a more perfect time for a film like Dope to breakout at the Sundance Film Fest and onto the main streets. Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope is an incredible feat, taking big strides trying to wrap its seamlessly small story in a much larger scope, blanketed with messages of equality and cries for truth and hope — all while remaining true to its personal coming-of-age story about a young man struggling with finding his own bright future living in a world full of danger and obstacles.
Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a teenager that can be described as a music geek. He and his friends Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori) often get picked on for being the whitest black kids around, because they’d rather listen to throwback 90s music and get good grades in class versus selling dope and blending in with their peers.
They have a band that plays a wide variety of music and mostly stick with each other in hopes of not getting their shoes stolen before the end of the school day. They don’t pay much attention to the typical school bullying, but Malcolm does pay attention to his academics and his struggle with trying to get into a good school, despite being a straight A student with all of the right qualities for any major college to accept him.
He’s faced with the harsh facts of reality, meaning that coming from the neighborhood that he lives in, mixed with the fact that he’s not a rising basketball talent or popular breakout musician leaves him facing an uphill battle while others simply get on by without a problem.
His teachers don’t expect or seem to want him to go anywhere with his life, but he refuses to sit back and live a life where his family is in constant danger and he’s held back from the post-high school education that he not only wants, but rightfully deserves.
This focused ambition comes clashing as Malcolm gets caught up into the drug dealing world when an innocent favor turns into a wild crossroad of drugs, money and wanting more out of life.
Dope is a fantastic film and one that is going to definitely make some heads turn as the summer season bombards you with blockbusters and A-list-starring films. Director Rick Famuyiwa may not be a known name now, but he will be as more and more people discover this hidden gem.
Rick Famuyiwa smartly writes Dope in a way that presents itself as your basic coming-of-age story on top, but then peels away at drama and turmoil the more you sink into the film and start looking for more.
Shameik Moore‘s portrayal of Malcolm is strong and powerful, mixing together the hardships of growing up in a poor and rough neighborhood with the relatable dream of a young man wanting to future his education and better his life, not only for the sake of himself, but for the people around him.
Malcolm is a smart young man and he’s not exactly trying to fit in, but he is trying to find out where he fits in next to his peers in a world that’s tough all over, but also full of hope if you know where to look for it.
Dope is about being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but then finding out that sometimes that’s what it takes to find the right one. Malcolm starts off as an afraid and obedient kid with a quiet dream for more, but then ends up progressing into a loud and proud man simply taking what’s his.
He’s not afraid to cross the line, even though the film deals with what that truly means. He battles himself more than anyone else and it’s an eye-opening transition that is fully earned through Moore’s performance and Famuyiwa’s storytelling methods.
Rick Famuyiwa takes big strides trying to wrap the film’s small story in a larger scope, while also blanketing in messages of equality and cries for truth and hope. The ending is definitely going to hit a lot of people hard and callback to classics like Spike Lee‘s Do the Right Thing and Dope not only earns that, but it also earns the comparisons that people are going to make between the two films.
Dope is a powerful story and one that hits hard when the time’s right. Rick Famuyiwa‘s film may come across as preachy to some or too weirdly honest to others, but that’s only because it’s never afraid to speak its truth. It’s messy at times, but always keeps its heart in the right place.