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Film Review – Dope

2 min read

As a staple for the release of great film prospects, the Sundance Film Festival showcases unique and interesting pieces from independent filmmakers around the world. This year’s festival has shown a significant release of smart, witty and intelligent films about young adults and the inevitable issues of coming-of-age.

Dope is just one of the favourites to come out from Sundance, a street-smart film about a bookish high school senior, Malcolm (Shameik Moore) who is infatuated with what most people in his predominantly African American neighbourhood would call “white people stuff’. With interests like BMX biking, punk rock and aspirations of attending Harvard, Malcolm and his best friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) are constantly harassed for their conspicuous hobbies. With an exuberant, energetic feel and a soundtrack composed by Pharell Williams, Dope is one of this year’s outstanding young adult films.

Like indie darling, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the Pharrell Williams produced film shines amongst the mainstream teenage films released this year. Dope showcases the eclectic aura of California’s Inglewood, contrasting Moore’s subversive character against the backdrop of drugs and the ‘hood’.

Dope Inserted Image

Dope traverses the line between YA, crime and comedy – which makes for an entertaining amalgamation onscreen. The film mixes both the coming-of-age experiences of adolescences and the gritty life of drugs and crime. Dope is quirky and filled with bumbling, endearing moments that are redeemed by the witty moments of charming characters that create an authentic and creative piece.

With the usual Sundance ambiance, director Rick Famuyiwa assembles a unique group of up-and-comers – Moore is outstanding in his first leading role, a breath of fresh air and vibrancy that is palpable onscreen. Likewise, Revolori and Clemons demonstrate superb performances that amicably blend with Moore. Kravitz takes the role of the ‘dream girl’, stepping out of her typecast role as ‘best friend’. Notwithstanding the excellent breakout roles of musicians such as A$AP Rocky as the violent and entertainingly drug dealer Dom, Tyga as De’Andre, Mexican rapper Kap-G and former Victoria Secret model Chanel Iman. With voiceover work from Dope producer and Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and a role for basketball player turned actor Rick Fox, Famuyiwa constructs an entertainingly diverse ensemble cast.

Famuyiwa demonstrates an authentic style through cultural modes that complement the Californian backdrop and the energetic and earnest quality of the film. An interesting ambiance of indie and commercial, Dope simultaneously disregards and acknowledges the trope of the ‘hood mentality’, making fun of it whilst traversing the themes at the same time.

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