Sunday, June 28, 2015

DOPE (2015)



Written & Directed By: Rick Famuyiwa 
Cinematography By: Rachel Morrison 
Editor: Lee Haugen 
Costume Design: Patrick Milani 

Cast: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersay Clemons, Blake Anderson, Zoe Kravitz, De’Aundre Bonds, Kimberly Elise, Rick Fox, Chanel Iman, Ricky Harris, Roger Guenveur Smith, Keith Stanfield, Vince Staples, Tyga, Quincy Brown, Bruce Beatty, Allen Maldanado, Josh Meyer


A coming of age comedy/drama for the post hip hop generation. Malcolm is a geek, carefully surviving life in The Bottoms, a tough neighborhood in Inglewood, CA filled gangsters and drugs dealers, while juggling his senior year of college applications, interviews and the SAT. His dream is to attend Harvard. A chance invitation to a big underground party leads Malcolm and his friends into a, only in Los Angeles, gritty adventure filed with offbeat characters and bad choices. If Malcolm can persevere, he'll go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.

This film feels like something special a real gem they come out of nowhere. A runt so to speak as it seems small and not the most noteworthy at first, but then packs quite a punch and goes to the head of the class.

That even for me makes me excited to talk about.

The film Feels like an underground hip-hop mixtape of original and previously used popular beats that are familiar and then new vocals and rhymes are added by new voices. That are jay trying to break in and do what why have a passion for while expressing themselves to the audience. It is up to you whether or not you like their flow. Usually a ragtag affair put together and mixed. Though sometimes they are better the the major debut albums of certain talented artists. That the studio has polished and in essence taken away what made that artist special. The passion, the struggle, the voice. They were still hungry doing it for free out of Love for the art form. Not necessarily for the money or perks yet. Just telling stories with no certain tag lines, themes or chorus. No worry about image. Just wanting to get their art out to the masses and entertain.

Not exactly a coming of age story, but a film of life lessons. That is chaotic and affirming to a degree. Allowing the characters to be good kids but not Angels. Who strive for more out of life and doing what it takes to survive and succeed.

Though familiar, stayed inventive throughout. Not preachy, but lending itself to it's own definition and not allowing anyone to pigeonhole it.

The film presents some stereotypes, then challenge the audience and the characters by asking them to rethink them. By showing how unpredictable most of the characters are. Once you think you know all you need to about them.

I am not saying the film is revolutionary, but it is a breath of fresh air. In this humid, nasty summer heat.

Maybe I have a weakness as we rarely see any minority characters who are geeks that are less then Stereotypical. Then again the characterization of geeks has usually been one dimensional and rarely showing the reasons behind the interest and passion of them.

More comedic until the final third where it gets serious and oddly more defining as it seems at that point like playtime is over. This is where the character and the film Matures. For the better is more up to the viewer. It's noticeable, especially as before this it has seemed more like a fun ride with some detours into more serious territory for a minute or two.

The cast uniformly is great from the lead to Shameik Moore even the smallest roles. It is well cast as even the bit players make their presence known and you end up liking them to a degree even if they are villainous. As they are that colorful and charismatic. Particularly memorable are A$ap Rocky who plays an integral, thou not very large role. He comes across as cool, dangerous and charismatic. And Chanel Iman as the temptress Lilly. Who showcases not all that glitters is gold and not as that is promised is delivered. Though she is a showstopper. Especially considering A$AP Rocky auditioned and was cast in the movie as "Dom" after helping then-girlfriend Chanel Iman run her lines.

You never want to really leave the world of this film or the characters. No matter how dangerous it might be. I am sure most of the audience would love to see the further exploits of the main characters. As the Ending is left open ended, but doesn't lack definition. As it delivers a message.

It reminds me of a kind of throwback to blaxploitation films. Though not necessarily the action films, but more the type that seemed to be caper films, but then while watching them they are about so much more. Sure they set a time capsule of their surroundings, but they also captured a mood, community and culture at times of best and worse. Really helping to Map out and define the neighborhood in which they were raised and come from.

What Is particularly funny is that the characters are chastised for wearing and being into 90's culture exclusively. When half the other characters are pretty much dressed like they are inspired by the same decade. So that you wonder why they are so hard on these guys. When they are just as influenced. Jealousy?

I have to say that writer director Rick Famuyiwa has come a long way since his previous films THE WOOD. As his films have more been understated more adult contemporary stories, with a bit of flavor. With this film he does a complete 180 as this film is rich. In style, color, story that matches his characters and heir world. As well as their energy and as they travel in new directions and face a world they aren't familiar with. The film presents that work for both is and the characters as we are both shown the excitement, the perils, the dangers. As well as the rewards. It moves at what seems like breakneck speed with some cutaways for explanation and insight into certain situations. Though it slows down to help us take the situation in and breathe a bit. Before it is off to the races again. It is really a breakthrough for director. While it also feel like a noteworthy voice in film. If he keeps making films of this caliber.

It even has a sly reference to his previous film THE WOOD, By having The character Stacey from "The Wood", another coming of age movie, appears as the school security guard.

What truly makes the film so special, For me is that it could have easily and lazily gone on to expectations that you expect in this type of film, but it manages to flip the script and stay refreshing throughout. It is rare you see this type of film that might seem random, but is actually very layered. Especially when it comes to films made about minorities.

That is the feeling you get from this film. It's patchwork is shiny but also feel more homegrown and put together. Then polished by the peers that be.

Now while it does involve the toughness of the streets, gangs, death and drug dealing. The film presets it with the dangers and seriousness of the situation, but not the overwhelming hopelessness, sadness and depression. That films of this caliber usually called hood' films narrow mindly, can end up becoming and present a message and image of hopelessness and despair. Which then seems to become the norm Of minority and African-American cinema in general. That only reinforces stereotypes and rarely offers any type of hope. If it does it is only for one character while the rest are either stuck or left in peril to their fates at times.

What bothers me has nothing necessarily with how the film plays, but it's advertisement. This film seems to be known by word of mouth mainly. As it came out of sundance highly talked about and while there have been some trailers and commercials. The trailers did well by not ruining any story points, but they also barely gave you any story. So you wonder what exactly the film is about. Some mystery is good, but it’s not that type of film. I wouldn't want it ruined, but I would like to get what it's about. The trailers more seem to be about selling the design and the throwback nature of the characters and design, but little of story. It sets a mood though offers nothing else. Though it's not just that.

I realize this is an indie film so maybe not promoted too heavily, but it feels Barely promoted as I rarely saw a trailer that was in theaters. Saw them occasionally online, only after looking for them myself and no commercials at all. Now I realize the film might be a bit racy, but no more then others. So what's the deal?

This will be a film many will be able to just look at glibly and make u their mind or pass it off. For me this film felt strong and personal. So it really affected me and made me appreciate it the more I think about it.

SPOILER:

This is a response that I saw on an imdb Board that was questioning the last part of the film and some found him answering the question not needed. The line “If I was white would you ask me the same question” reasoning he was speaking about the question. Why do you want to go to Harvard? I Really Enjoyed and agreed with his post and expliantion.

 “Personally, I didn't see the two students speech as a speech to the admissions staff of Harvard as much as it was a mirror to the audience. Like, yes, of course colleges ask you why you want to go there.

But what about people on the street? Family? Friends? What if those people are the ones asking you, constantly, why you, as a black kid, want to go to Harvard? What if those people are asking you, as a black kid, what makes you so "special" and whatever to warrant an alleged stellar education? What if those people are always asking you to validate and explain your confidence and self-worth?

I agree with you that it is a question colleges, and people, ask to suss out what a person sees in themselves and what they want to achieve. What I feel Malcolm is saying is, "why can't I want this? Why shouldn't I want this?" Why is him believing he is worth that education, or worth anything above the "average" seen as some sort of anomaly? ...but then again, I was sort of the same kind of nerd as him so maybe I'm just projecting.

 BY Queent1821”

 SPOILER END



 GRADE: B+

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