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Review: Rick Famuyiwa’s ‘Dope’ Is Like a John Hughes Film Flipped on Its Head

June 17, 2015
Cookie Lyon

If you aren’t careful, the world will try to tell you who you are, and you might be dumb enough to believe it.

Rick Famuyiwa’s “Dope” follows high school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore), and his two best friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons), as they struggle to fit into their Inglewood, California neighborhood that’s affectionately coined The Bottoms. Obsessed with 90’s hip-hop culture, the trio hide behind the stylish and musical nuisances of a past time, instead of facing their 21st century environment. A film that initially felt like it could be another “Boyz N the Hood” or “Menace II Society,” I thought I had seen some version if this story before. It turns out, I was dead wrong.

Instead of a typical coming-of-age tale, “Dope” is like a modern day Black “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986), or almost any other John Hughes film. Average American teen nerd who, in an ambitious act of self-exoneration, becomes cool, and/or has a sexual encounter with a girl seemingly out of his league. “Dope” is somewhat like that. Also, Malcolm breaks the fourth wall, speaking to the audience, and his constant self-analysis is much like Ferris’.

Though he’s known for his “grown up” films like “The Wood” (1999) and “Brown Sugar” (2002), director Famuyiwa really captures the essence of coming-of-age in Obama’s America.  He encapsulates John Hughes nostalgia, and flips it on its head to incorporate the vitality of John Singleton’s films. In doing so, Famuyiwa gives a voice to today’s young black male, while removing the “hood-homeboy” element that we’ve often seen in the past.

Continue Reading at Shadow and Act.

Image: ‘Dope’ Film/Rachel Morrison