The greatest part of Rick Famuyiwa’s Dope is that the film is quick to address the multifaceted meanings of the film’s title in an opening credit sequence.
In what seems to be a common theme, Famuyiwa puts up many tricks on the screen: a video game, scenes intercut, narration by Forest Whitaker which seems to dissipate towards the end of the film, that the film seems to be by a first time auteur, eager to impress.
Surprisingly, Famuyima has released films before, but perhaps none with the same fanfare and expectation of Dope, which played riotously at Sundance.
And perhaps this works the audience’s favour, as Dope entertains throughout, but some sequences outright do not work, (a seduction, vomiting and pissing scene come to mind). But when the film does work, and mostly, this tale of Malcolm (newcomers Shameik Moore), an overachiever and nerd at the same time, works. The scenes of Malcolm with his friends Jib and Diggy (Tony Revolori and Kiersy Clemons) stay light, and the camaraderie with the three seems clear.
The plotline with Zoë Kravitz as Nakia, a struggling student, seem odd, as if imported from another film, but somehow with all of Famuyima’s zags and diversions and ragtag plotting, Dope somehow inexplicable manages to go where it needed to go.
It subverts the idea of a mistaken identity drug comedy, and an appearance by Rakim Meyers is truly sublime, (Meyers is best known A$AP Rocky). Rappers Tyga and Casey Veggies also fit well into the bizarre casting, although Veggies mentioned as a rapper of the moment seemed a little in-jokey.
The straight Dope on the film is that it’s really messy, and non-linear and quite hyperactive, but the soundtrack by Pharrell is bumping and the visuals are quite stunning, with Moore using his body and hair to amusing effects. the word Dope may mean many things, but the film Dope definitely means business.