With “Dope,” director Rick Famuyiwa set out to redefine mainstream cinema. He didn’t want it to be a black or white story, but instead a story that everyone could enjoy as well as relate to. He did however want to make sure mainstream films reflected African-Americans as well. According to Famuyiwa, with ‘Dope’ he realized that it was time to get the perceptions versus reality right. Famuyiwa wanted to express the story of black males being tired of being defined by others perceptions of them, especially with all that is occurring in society today. Famuyiwa captures a contrast that many individuals from impoverished areas may face, the contrast of wanting to leave their neighborhood and go to college and the illegal activities they may find themselves engaging in.
In the film, high-school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore) represents a cliche reality: He’s a poor black kid from Los Angeles, California supported by a single hardworking mom (Kimberly Elise), who also happens to not know his father. He also embodies the exact opposite of the negative stereotypes as he is also a young gifted scholar.
He and his best friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons), are all about “white stuff” meaning they are attracted to the things that most people in their black Inglewood neighborhood consider White folks activity…. you know BMX bike riding, getting good grades, and planning to attend college. Despite the trio’s obsession with the classic ’90s Hip-Hop culture, they’ve actually formed their own punk band. Their proclivity for “white stuff” gets them taunted by gang members inside and outside of school. Their walks home and through the hallways are generally troubled as they face many run-ins with Bloods and drug dealers daily.
One walk home turns into a chance encounter between Malcolm and Dom (A$AP Rocky). Dom, a neighborhood drug dealer takes a liking to Malcolm, and they engage in a conversation about music and ’90s culture. Dom is really only trying to use Malcolm to woo his love interest Nakia (Zoe Kravitz). Malcolm becomes Dom’s messenger between a girl he also happens to have a crush on.
Dom sends a message by Malcolm inviting Nakia to his birthday party at a local club. A private room drug deal gone bad at the party ends in a full out shootout in the club. Malcolm wins Nakia over a little bit more as he helps her to safety. It isn’t until the following day at school that he realizes unbeknown to him, he also ushered out a handgun and $100,000 of Molly that Dom placed in his backpack.
Malcolm wants to get rid of the drugs as soon as possible especially with his Ivy league aspirations and fear of losing his life. With Dom now behind bars and thugs on the street also in hot pursuit of the illegal items, Malcolm and his crew decide to try and deliver the goods to an address Dom has provided them with. This only leads to more madness. Here the film shows a comedic plot twist. Malcolm almost loses his virginity to a very high Lily (Chanel Iman), his friends have to flee a shootout along with (Quincy Brown), and Malcolm forgets about his college admission interview with a Harvard interviewer. After all of this chaos Malcolm and crew decide to get in the drug game and move the weight themselves.
Both the drug-dealing strategy and the trio’s band go viral, with much help from a popular platform and people wanting to be on that “Lily”. Famuyiwa is also clever with the way he allowed race to play a role in a few scenes. The first instance is when the characters discuss why white people can’t use the N-word, and the second is the way race factors into Malcolm’s Harvard application essay. While I won’t tell you the whole movie, or how the movie ends, I will tell you all is well for Malcolm and he draws from his experiences to close with a powerful statement as he embarks on his college journey. As a ’90s inspired coming of age story, Dope is indeed DOPE! The movie hits theaters June 19th.