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Film / Dope

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Dope is a 2015 comedy-drama from writer/director Rick Famuyiwa and producer Forest Whitaker. It stars Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Zoë Kravitz, Blake Anderson, and A$AP Rocky. Pharrell Williams also produced and contributed to the soundtrack with four new songs that he wrote.

Malcolm (Moore) is a geeky high school senior with dreams of attending Harvard. He's in a punk rock band called Awreo with his best friends Jib (Revolori) and Diggy (Clemons). When they're invited to the birthday party of drug dealer Dom (Rocky), things spiral out of control after Malcolm finds that Dom placed a bunch of drugs and a gun in his backpack.

This film provides examples of:

  • The '90s: While not directly taking place in the 1990s, the three main characters are infatuated with the hip hop music, aesthetics, and other pieces of culture from that decade.
  • Affably Evil: Dom, who is genuinely friendly and amicable for a man that slings drugs and beats a security guard just trying to do his job for talking back to him (after explaining to the man why he has to).
  • Ambiguously Brown: Jib's race isn't stated in-story beyond his (exactly) 14% African heritage.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Barely. Malcolm's response from Harvard comes in a large envelope, which is typical for acceptance letters. He opens it, hesitates, then looks at the camera before cutting to black.
  • Author Filibuster: Malcolm's re-written application letter to Harvard. He even breaks the fourth wall and recites it into his band's microphone.
  • Arc Words: "Slippery slope".
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Malcolm pulls out a gun on his bully.
  • Big Bad: A.J. He's the highest link in the drug dealing chain we see in film, and is easily the most dangerous individual in the film.
  • Butch Lesbian: Diggy is a lesbian and dresses in a very masculine fashion, to the point of her being mistaken for a boy often.
  • Casting Gag: De'aundre Bonds reprises his role as Stacey from The Wood, another film Rick Famuyiwa directed.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Not much attention is placed on it, but Dom put his handgun in the middle of the stash of drugs he shoved into Malcom's backpack. Malcom later uses it to defend himself and his friends from the pack of bullies when they try to steal his money.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: The main trio have sex on their minds.
  • Coming of Age Story: The film has been described as being one.
  • Cure Your Gays: Diggy's family tries to cure her lesbianism through prayer every Sunday at their church. As the narrator relates this we see her in the middle of a prayer circle (the only time she's wearing feminine clothing) looking bored then checking out an attractive woman nearby. She jokes that maybe it worked due to being turned on by seeing Justin Bieber.
  • Dance Party Ending: Just Malcolm during the credits, to Digital Underground's "Humpty Dance".
  • Disappeared Dad: Malcolm has been raised by his single mother since his father left in his childhood, having gone home to Nigeria.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: When the trio gets to the mansion Dom instructed them to go to, it's a very shady situation and they hesitate to go in...until Lily drops her robe and walks, totally nude, into another room.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Three of Dope's meanings are conveniently provided at the start of the film: a foolish person, slang for drugs, and slang for something awesome or desirable.
  • Drunk Driver: Lily, while high on molly, drives all over the place, including over curbs, as Malcolm tries to rein her in.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: The trio all stare at Nakia early on as she passes them on the sidewalk due to her good looks. It happens again with Lily later.
  • Evil Mentor: A.J. is implied to be this to Dom.
  • Fan Disservice: Lily spends all of her screentime in nothing but a thong while trying to seduce Malcolm. Due to her being high on molly, however, she ends up puking on his face and then later urinating in public.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Underneath his friendly facade, Austin Jacoby/A.J. makes it clear to Malcolm that he's not afraid of taking the lives of him or his loved ones.
  • Frame-Up: This is how Malcolm gets A.J. to not hurt him or his friends and mother, by setting up the online drug store so that it looks like AJ was the one selling drugs.
  • Genre Shift: In-Universe. Malcolm's band Awreeoh is introduced as a garage punk rock band with an alternative, D.I.Y. attitude. "It's My Turn Now", the track credited to them at the film's climax, has a much more pop sound, making it the musical version of an Important Haircut and showing an obvious change in Malcolm's personality and attitude as a result of his experiences.
  • Hipster: Malcom and his friends' fascination with The '90s, down to dressing and cutting their hair to fit, all but makes them these.
  • Important Haircut: At the end of the movie, Malcolm shaves off his hi-top fade down to a normal fade, symbolizing his growth as a person, especially as he's learned to stand up for himself.
  • The Lad-ette: Diggy acts and dresses just like a boy, to the point that she's mistaken for one repeatedly and only hangs out with her male best friends, whose interests she shares (including girls, being a Butch Lesbian).
  • Lady Looks Like a Dude: The narrator comes right out and says that the viewer probably assumed Diggy is a boy due to her very masculine clothing. She's mistaken for a boy at two other points in the film: first, when she, Malcolm, and Jib were going to Dom's partynote  and second, when the principal of their school referred to the trio as "young men."
  • Memetic Mutation: In-Universe. "People on Lily be like..." and "How Am I 'Sposed To Eat My Pound Cake?"
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lily, who is introduced half-naked in her bathrobe before slipping it off. She teases Malcolm later by swimming nude in the pool and then goes topless offering him sex, after which Lily stays that way for some time.
  • Narrator: Forrest Whitaker.
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: Dom is presented as a mostly pleasant individual, outside one instance of beating a security guard for talking back to him.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: Malcolm claims The '90s to be the golden age of hip hop, but mistakenly includes Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions and Jay-Z's The Blueprint (from 1988 and 2001 respectively) and has the likes of Vanilla Ice brought as a counterpoint.
  • N-Word Privileges: Will comments that it doesn't seem fair that the main three can call him the word, including the Ambiguously Brown Jib, but he can't use it. Diggy slaps him every time he uses it until the trio relent, saying he's allowed.
  • One Degree of Separation:
    • Malcolm had a college interview with a man named Austin Jacoby. A few days before, he's thrown into a huge mess thanks to Dom. The "AJ" Dom sent Malcolm to see was Jacoby, who was a sort of mentor to Dom.
    • Also, the black girl that Will manages to sleep with turns out to be Lily.
  • One of the Boys: Diggy is best friends with Jib and Malcolm, two boys whom she always hangs out with. We never see her being with other girls. She's a Butch Lesbian who acts very much like them.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Diggy (Cassandra) and Jib (James) are only called by their legal names a single time in each case.
  • Outdated Outfit: Invoked by Malcolm and his friends, but especially him, with his ever present high top.
  • Playful Hacker: Will. Surprisingly mostly an aversion of Hollywood Hacking as well with regards to his methods.
  • Poor Man's Porn: Malcolm watches girls twerking on his iPhone when he masturbates, rather than traditional internet porn for some reason or another.
  • The Reveal: When Malcolm finds out the supposedly legitimate businessman he has an informational interview with is the mastermind behind the deadly trafficking operation he's spent the whole movie caught up in.
  • Satellite Family Member: Malcolm’s mom take cares of her son by herself and works as a bus driver, but otherwise has little focus in the movie compared to Malcolm’s friends.
  • Shared Universe: With The Wood. Stacey is now a security guard.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Nakia is attracted to Malcolm because he's a nice guy who isn't in a gang or is a drug dealer.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Nearly everyone in the movie, but the conversation about slippery slopes during the party scene stands out.
  • Take That!: There's more than a couple shots at several rap and hip hop artists.
    • Dom disagrees with Malcolm's assertion that the 90s were the golden age of hip hop because of the rise of artists like Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer, and The Fresh Prince.
    • Donald Glover is referred to by the narrator as "white shit."
    • When A.J. uses selling CDs by Rick Ross and Macklemore as a metaphor of drug dealing to Malcolm, Malcolm flatly states "I would never... buy a Macklemore CD."
  • Technical Virgin: Will says a lot of girls were only willing to have oral or anal sex with him to stay virgins in their minds. He admits it's the only sex that he's had, so by that standard he's also a technical virgin (or technically gay, in his view).
  • Technology Marches On: In-Universe. As previously stated above, A.J. tries to construct a metaphor about drug dealing to Malcolm using "ordering Rick Ross and Macklemore CDs on Amazon" as an example, but given that Malcolm's favorite artists (like Casey Veggies) are primarily consumed by free mixtape downloads on the Internet, the larger point gets lost in the anachronism.
  • Token White: Will is the only white character to appear in more than one scene.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In the beginning, Malcolm runs away from the resident school bully and his gang until he found their school's security. When the bully shows up again and roughs up him and his friends, Malcolm pulls out a gun and orders him and his friends to leave. He does.
  • Tracking Device: Malcolm gets hunted down by a gangster who wants the drugs he has with a "find my iPhone" app. He realizes this before long and leaves the phone on the bus to get away.
  • True Companions: Despite the dangers and not being directly involved, Jib and Diggy stick with Malcolm through the whole ordeal.
  • Wanton Cruelty to the Common Comma: The final line of the film. After Malcolm has just finished bragging that he's a straight-A student and has a "near-perfect" SAT score, he sneers, "If I was white, would you even have to ask me the question?" The correct grammar is "If I were white." The camera lingers on the ungrammatical line written out on his essay as well.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Lily pukes on Malcolm's face after taking molly.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Malcolm tells Nakia that she has potential and doesn't have to settle for what's expected.