CANNES 2015: Dope Review – Malcolm in the Middle

Fresh out of Sundance earlier this year, Dope earned itself the closing spot in Director’s Fortnight and its spunky enthusiasm gave me a much-appreciated boost after a week of increasingly harrowing affair.
From the minute the pumping soundtrack kicked in, I knew I was in good hands. Now, I may not be especially in the know when it comes to 90s hip hop, but everything just felt so right. The shoes, the bikes, the slang, the tunes, it’s all there . . . and it’s joyous.
Rick Famuyiwa (writer-director) also has the benefit of a pitch-perfect cast. Shameik Moore’s an endlessly charming lead. His cheeky smile is infectious and gets the film through a couple of moments that could well have come across as tasteless. And, Tony Revolori smashes it out of the park again as Malcolm’s best friend, Jib, after his star-making turn as Zero in The Grand Budapest Hotel. But, not to be outdone, Kiersey Clemons’ tomboyish Diggy is hilarious.
They’re a killer trio and I expect big things from every single one of them. But, if it’s the game leads that get us on board, then it’s Famuyiwa’s passion that keeps us there. His gleefully specific pop culture references are drenched in nostalgia, but they never come across as saccharine and, even to the blindly ignorant, the film’s energy is palpable.
In fact, the film’s pop culture references sent welcome reminders of Clerks-era Kevin Smith, as did the openly explicit sex talk and the general conversational diversions. Famuyiwa even went as far as including his own Jason Mewes-like stoner character.
Every so often a film comes along that feels like a prefect slice of subculture. Dope is one such film. Its street-smart culture-literacy is plain for all to see. Get up on this, folks, ‘cause this could be huge!

Dope is out on DVD in the UK from 4th January.

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