Coming of Age, Post Hip Hop
Malcolm, a high school senior, is a nerd and he is living in a rough part of Inglewood, California that is known as “The Bottoms.” There are gangsters and drug dealers everywhere and Malcolm is trying to deal with college applications, the SAT and college interviews. One evening he is invited to an underground party that takes him on adventure that could change his life forever.
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.
Malcolm and two best friends Jib and Diggy, despite living among poor people love BMX biking, classic ‘90s hip-hop culture, getting good grades at school, playing in their own punk band, and being all-round geeks. These activities are regarded by others as those for just white people. Because of this, going to school means being picked on and bullied.
Dom is their great tormentor and one day he tells Malcolm that he must be the go-between between himself and Nakia, the girl he wants for his very own but who does not seem to be interested. Dom thinks that perhaps if someone innocent like Malcolm delivers his messages to her, she will be more likely to pay attention to him. He is right about that but there is a snag in that—Nakia and Malcolm become interested in each other.
Both Nakia and Malcolm get invitations to Dom’s birthday celebration at club and a drug deal there goes bad that causes a gunfight between gangs. Malcolm helps Nakia to a safe place but what he does not know is that Dom stuck a stash of Ecstasy tablets into his backpack. Malcolm ends up in jail and charged with possession and there are also those who want to get the drugs from him because they are the rightful owner. Instead of going to interview that he was supposed to be at that would get him a place at Harvard, Malcolm and his friends are on the run.
The film moves quickly as it wonderfully captures the energy and the way that street-wise urban kids live.Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa brings together a relatively unknown multi-racial cast of actors, rappers, dancers and models to give us a compelling glimpse of “an edgier underground online life that most of us are unaware even exists and a slice of life of a neighborhood that we would probably never visit.” This is set to a wonderful soundtrack that is a fine representation of hip hop culture and this is a comedy.
“Dope” is unique and fresh, edgy and subversive. Shameik Moore is Malcolm and he gives a fine performance that is supported by his friends played by Tony Revolori as Jib and Kiersey Clemons as Diggy. Biting social commentary comes together with good filmmaking to give us a film that is near perfection and it makes no difference who you are and what kind of music you like, this is a film about being oneself and not allowing stereotypes to become the rule.