For Reel

Dope (2015)
June 29, 2015, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Rick Famuyiwa
3 Stars
DopeAs Dope begins, the camera focuses on a handful of retro objects that might dictate that the setting is the late 80s or early 90s. Shortly thereafter, there’s a reference to Bitcoin, correcting the audience’s assumption and revealing that the film is actually set in the present day. Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa similarly speculates that audiences might be making assumptions about both his characters and the world they inhabit throughout the picture. This thought culminates in a final monologue delivered by our protagonist, Malcolm Adekanbi (Shameik Moore). Reciting his Harvard application essay, he paints a portrait of two very different candidates: one, a hard-working black nerd; the other, a drug dealer from the ghetto with an absent father. Each description is assigned a certain cultural value by both admissions committees and, as the film argues, society at large. It’s an interesting thought, if a little forced, but that might be said of much of the movie. The penchant for cultural references in Famuyiwa’s screenplay is married to a patchwork of visual styles and genre tropes. As a consequence, the resulting artifice feels cold and ponderous, and in the end there are a few too many story threads and ideas to make any of them really stick. Last year’s Dear White People was imperfect, but comparatively its vision regarding post-modern representations of black culture felt uncompromising. It was a film that was trying to say something without telling the audience directly what it was trying to say.

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