In 1999, Rick Famuyiwa made one of my favorite movies The Wood, which humorously depicted the life of three black teenagers growing up in Inglewood, California. I loved the movie because it was an original African American romantic comedy. It helped me understand grabbing a girl’s butt meant you would probably have to fight her older brother Stacey once the school day ended. The obsession with getting girl’s numbers and betting on who will have sex first was an entertaining way of illustrating the characters to us. The Wood gave us memorable characters we could never forget in regards to black cinema.
Famuyiwa comes back with his recent movie Dope (2015). A high-school senior named Malcolm is confident he can get into Harvard University, but he has to make it through the crime and violence of Inglewood in order to get there. Shameik Moore is the protagonist of the movie who superbly executes the role of a geek who can easily get straight A’s while being the lead of his punk band. Malcolm also has his friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemens) to help him survive the streets of Inglewood. I didn’t even notice Jib was the same teen who played in The Grand Budapest Hotel which is one of the best Wes Anderson films of all time. I really liked the character of Diggy because she was the toughest one out of the crew and would make her presence felt in regards to anybody disrespecting her.
The soundtrack of the movie was great just because I am a big fan of 90’s hip-hop. The fact that Malcolm and his homies were 90’s fans made me appreciate the “sound” of the movie even more. Famuyiwa making the characters this way allows viewers to see how they stand out in comparison to other characters in the movie. Malcolm and his crew represent those individuals in today’s society who still appreciate real hip-hop.
I also want to shout out the casting directors for getting Zoë Kravitz because she is a great actress who I feel has the potential to someday win an Oscar. She has played in many other great movies such as Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) which proves she has the ability to play different roles. Her role as Nakia does something different with a female character which is that she doesn’t sexualize herself as the love interest of Malcolm. Her character is complex in the sense that she is trying to get her GED in parallel with Malcolm trying to get in Harvard University.
I respect the direction Famuyiwa sends his characters and how the importance of education plays a role in the movie. For an African-American crime comedy-drama, it doesn’t just show a black teenage boy slacking and trying to hustle on the streets. Rather, it shows a teenager caught in the struggle of Inglewood, but Malcolm still focuses on school because for him that route isn’t closed off for him. Even when his school counselor tells him he shouldn’t be so confident in thinking he can get into Harvard University because their school is in a bad neighborhood, Malcolm still keeps striving because he believes he can overcome his situation which what makes Dope an awesome movie.
To conclude, the movie Dope should be considered one of the best depictions of African American reality because it speaks to a generation of people who are discouraged from being like Malcolm. I hope Rick Famuyiwa continues to make movies because he is definitely making movies worth watching. I also loved the fact that De’Aundre Bonds reprises his role as Stacey from The Wood in Dope because it was an Easter egg only so few people could catch. I loved the movie Dope and I hope it inspires many more directors to not be afraid to take risk with their portrayals of cities such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, etc. We need more movies like this one because it gives us something unique in black cinema that we don’t get to see a lot today.