Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Film Fest Day 6: It's DOPE!

This was a late addition. I heard good things, noted that Zoë Kravitz looked very cute in corn rows and so BOOM. Instant review!

Malcolm is a nerd in his final year of high school. He and his friends are obsessed with early 90s hiphop culture, to the extent of wearing the clothes and, in Malcolm's case, the hair associated with the era. He lives in Inglewood, California and dreams of going to Harvard. After falling for a drug dealer's squeeze (Kravitz), Malcolm and his friends end up at the drug dealer's birthday party. Events take a turn for the worse, and Malcolm inadvertently ends up with a backpack full of high grade dope. Now he has to find a way to get rid of the drugs, ace his university entrance exams and help the drug dealer's girlfriend pass her GED (it's better than it sounds).

This movie is a lot of fun. Probably the most flat out enjoyable movie of the festival. In a way, it feels like a throwback to the teen movies of the 80s and early 90s. Like Ex Machina, it may not be wholly original in terms of its genre, but the perspective and presentation here elevate it above whatever cliches and conventions it uses.

It features strong performances from the central trio, particularly from lead Shameik Moore. I've never seen him before, and he really has presence here. Hopefully, he can follow Nate Parker and Michael B. Jordan into bigger roles. 

The movie is at its best in the first half, when it is more about the characters than plot twists. Not that the second half is bad, but it does feel a little ragged at times. But that's just nitpicking -- this movie is really good. What I really liked was how the movie managed to avoid softening the harshness of the characters' milieu, and still make you laugh. Dope has a darkness to it which gives it a vibrancy and realism lacking from similar movies like The Wackness

I highly recommend this. Hopefully, it gets a wider release outside the festival. It's that good. 

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