Four days in, Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope is the very best movie I’ve seen up to now at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. A coming of age story for the “post hip hop generation” best described as a mixture of three films: Doug Liman’s Go, Greg Mottola’s Superbad and John Singleton’s Boyz n the Hood. I’m posting this review the morning following the premiere and its being reported that six studios are rabidly inviting to distribute this film — its insanely reachable movie for a Sundance film and will sure to be a hit that lives on previous its festival and theatrical runs. Read my Dope review following the jump.
The story follows a group of modern day over attaining geeks obsessed with rsquo & 90;s music, fashion and pop culture. At the center of which is a high school senior whose vision will be to attend faculty at Harvard, Malcolm. A chance encounter leads the group to an underground party which kickstarts them on an outlandish yet somehow plausible adventure filled with the worst choices possible.
The movie has a lot to say about growing up black in a bad neighborhood with bigger dreams than can be afforded. It’s about remaining true to yourself in the most impossible no win situation and subverting expectations. The film offers an intriguing portrait of “The Bottoms” place of Inglewood California, full of drug dealers and gangsters.
Dope is significantly deeper than its pop culture throwback shell, featuring high school characters with intricacy and authenticity played by a trio of impressive young performers — Shameik Moore gives a breakout performance as Malcolm and we get to see more of Tony Revolori, likely best known as Zero from Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel.
The spunky Kiersey Clemons, best known as Bianca on Amazon’s Transparent, rounds out the trio. I call we’ll see all three celebrities in some big films in the next few years.
Forest Whitaker supplies some thin voice over narration and Zoe Kravitz is supplied as persuasive lure for Malcolm’s mad sprawling adventure (Famuyiwa said that Zoe was the picture’s Penny Lane, a complimentary reference to Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous).
There is a celebration sequence which is shown during the brilliant utilization of the latest social media in hindsight. Another standout is the amazing, from start to finish, 90s hip hop soundtrack. Undeniably, the greatest 1990s movie soundtrack since The Wackness.
The film opens with Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” and features original music by Pharrell Williams (the chief trio have a nerdy punk band). The movie is full of hip hop credit, from rapper A$AP Rocky who plays a leading role to PDiddy Sean Combs is an executive producer.
While the storyline is linear for the most part, the screenplay offers us a few flashbacks which sometimes farther connect the characters and storylines like a puzzle that is well built.
Dope is moving and charming — an amazingly relatable urban dramedy that works on nearly every level.