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 with gangsters and drug 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 an "only in Los Angeles" gritty adventure filled with offbeat characters and bad choices. If Malcolm can persevere, he'll go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.
At around 20 minutes, when Malcolm is at Dom's birthday party, when he sees Nakia through the crowd holding a champagne flute. Malcolm is shown wearing his golden necklace above his denim shirt, then the camera quickly switches between Malcolm and his friends as he approaches Nakia, and the necklace changes position from above to under the denim shirt. See more »
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If you watch a lot of films, you develop an instinct for what is happening behind the camera. Some films -- heck, most films -- are all about the money, the box office, the payoff.
Not so with auteur Rick Famuyiwa's DOPE. Running at an overlong 1:45, you sense that money might have been the last thing on this writer/director's mind when he crafted the script; created some of the most endearing characters in modern film; carefully snuck into the dialog his puns, life lessons and bon mots; extracted top performances from his team; and ultimately created an experience that more "overwhelms" the viewer with images and ideas than "overpowers."
I liked it. I really liked it. But I go out of my way to catch films that most mainstream viewers don't, because film as a medium fascinates me.
The other IMDb members have done some great reviews and I don't want to repeat what has been said.
I do want to add this: technically the film is almost perfect. There is nothing obviously wrong with any scene, trope, performance ... it all works. And passion? There is tons of passion, nicely hidden in the script, obvious only in the way the film alternates back and forth between fast noisy action, and contemplative self-absorbed scenes of the type you would be more likely to find in a Woody Allen picture. Even with voice-over.
It has everything but pacing -- and that is the critical flaw. Famuyiwa tried so hard to cram so much into DOPE that the film lacks internal rhythm. By the very end, the viewer, while appreciative of the characters and the story, is pretty much lost.
One hopes that in his next project Famuyiwa will pay more attention to the viewers and less to his own "bucket list" of things he wants to cram into the story.
In that way, what starts as merely good ... could be great.
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