I constantly find myself in the state of just wanting to chill and watch a movie but I get so frustrated when all I can find in Netflix’s “Feel-good Coming-of-age Movies” category (my go-to genre) are movies featuring an all white cast (with maybe one token POC character) that also somehow manage to have the same exact plot over and over again. This is why I was extremely anticipating the release of Sundance favorite, Dope and it did not disappoint.
Dope fulfilled my craving for a change in narrative in Coming-of-age films. Not only is the main character black, but he’s a black kid who’s in a punk band and dreams of going to Harvard which is a character I rarely see represented in film. As tired as I am of seeing teen films rolling out one after another staring an all white cast, I’m just as fed up of seeing movies staring that stereotype black teens. What Dope does is break the already existing stereotype whilst addressing it and acknowledging the fact that not all black teens fit that mold.
The films protagonist, Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his two best friends Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori) are high school seniors and 90s hip hop geeks with dreams of going to Ivy League schools. They’re also in a punk band called Awreeoh (pronounced Oreo), which is a nod to them being black and into “white shit”, the thing that makes them a target in their crime filled neighborhood of ‘’The Bottoms’’ in Inglewood, California.
Conflict is introduced when Malcolm runs into a local drug dealer Dom (played fabulously by A$AP Rocky in his film debut) and he asks him to talk to Nakia (Zoe Kravitz) on his behalf to convince her to go to a party with him. As we are already aware by this point, Malcolm (obviously) has a burning desire for Nakia himself and he and his friends decide to hit up the party on the chance that she’ll be there. The party turns out to be a cover for a drug deal and when that goes awry, Dom slips a shitload of molly and a gun into Malcolm’s backpack and tells him to run. Malcolm and his friends are now burdened with the task of helping Dom sell the drugs whilst dealing with the burdens of high school such as college applications and finding a date to the prom at the same time.
Dope’s soundtrack references Malcolm’s love for 90’s hip hop, incorporating classic songs from the decade as well as original music from Malcolm, Jib and Diggy’s garage punk band, produced by Pharell. Dope is extremely funny and action packed all throughout, add the fact that it’s set in a crime filled urban neighborhood, Dope is like a cross between Pulp Fiction, Superbad and Boyz n the Hood but it still remains to be an original teen movie masterpiece in itself.
I for one am excited that films like this are being made and hope this film sparks a revolution in the Coming-of-age genre and we see much more like this in the near future.
Shaianne is an 18 year old student from New York, currently at university in London. She is a stand up comedian, but only in her dreams and her obsession with Twin Peaks will most likely be her downfall. Her infinite list of favorite films include The Virgin Suicides, Donnie Darko, Fight Club and everything Wes Anderson has ever made. Watch her tweet embarrassing declarations of love to members of One Direction here: @shaianne__