Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Indie Review: Dope (2015)

                                           'Dope' Is Dope
     Dope follows the story of a high school student named Malcolm (Shameik Moore) who tries to distance himself from the rough neighborhood he lives in by applying to college and getting straight A's as well as becoming accustomed to 90's hip-hop culture. But after he and his friends, Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jip (Tony Revolori), get invited to a drug dealer's party, they become embroiled in a drug smuggle that shapes their views of their surroundings.

    I'll start off with the brilliant editing. I thought it was so unique how the editor, Lee Haugen, incorporated different editing techniques into the film ranging from sudden pauses to split screen to even having the actors break the fourth wall. It all had a Scorsese vibe, but without replicating him. One of my favorite edited sequences is the opening where as the main characters are introduced, the film would cut to a glimpse of their backstory like when we cut to Diggy being surrounded by her family who is trying to "pray the gay away from her" right after Diggy is first introduced.

    Next, I'll get into the performances from the cast. Shameik Moore delivers a performance that I hope will get people to take note. He was amazing as a driven young teen who is slightly arrogant yet desperately trying to find his way out of the ghetto. Moore gives his character quite a grey area as he doesn't paint Malcolm as a martyr nor a saint. His Malcolm felt like a real person. Moore also has an astounding cast surrounding him. Tony Revolori pulls off a complete 180 from his demure Lobby Boy in The Grand Budapest Hotel as Malcolm's more outgoing pal Jip. Kiersey Clemons is a very spunky presence as the lesbian Diggy whose sexuality only adds to Clemons' complex characterization of her as Clemons acknowledges the fact that Diggy is gay, but doesn't play it up as a gimmick for laughs. Zoe Kravitz provides a harmonious level of authenticity to the film as Malcolm's love interest Nakia and delivers some of the best work of her career. Another standout I'd love to acknowledge is Chanel Iman who plays the sexed up sister of a drug dealer named Lilly and not only nails the sensuality of the character but also the comical tragedy that eventually takes place within her short screen time.

    Much like the character of Malcolm himself, the film overall is a grey area and I loved that. It shows how the characters get caught up in the drug dealing scene they've always tried to avoid, but so they can get further away from that scene and their rough neighborhood. As the film progresses, it'll have you wondering whether we truly can escape their roots if we ever physically leave them behind. So while there are some colorful characters, as well as slight humor, to be found, there is still quite a powerful and underlying tragedy to be found as well. It even gets across a point on social media and, without giving too much away, shows how one person's clumsy mistake can turn into a meme played for laughs.


    Overall, Dope is a unique coming-of-age story that is like John Hughes meets Goodfellas in the ghetto. It has slick editing, outstanding performances from the young cast, and has a delicate balance of comedy, tragedy, romance, and social commentary. Dope is simply, dope.

    Would I Recommend It?:
    Absolutely. Whether you are white or black, go and see this. You'll enjoy it yet still find yourself asking questions towards the end.

Grade: A+

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