LetterboxD review link

The soundtrack, style and 90s references may be enough to enjoy DOPE, which is by and large enjoyable. But I gather that writer director Rick Famuyiwa set out to do more than make an enjoyable movie. And in that goal, I’m afraid he fell short.

DOPE is very particularly of its time. Technology is integral to its plot, cultural references abound and it is in conversation with the many films that make up its genre. However, much like the time it’s from, DOPE starts with a new idea and fails to see it through to completion. The new idea with which it starts is “what is life like for a geek in Englewood?” After that however, it falls into a morass of subplots, side-characters and a scattershot tone.

Oddly enough, DOPE’s central character has a strong sense of identity. He knows who he is. And he continues to be himself in the midst of a lot of pressure to change. He comes out strongly against cliche. Unfortunately, the film in which he is cast does not have the same backbone. DOPE, like a teenager clinging to whatever sways him/her in any direction (or like Bobby Jindal, similarly lacking a strong sense of self), is missing a central identity. DOPE doesn’t end up as a cliche, entirely (although the ending comes close with its didactic turn), but it just doesn’t have an identity for the viewer to hang on to or be inspired from.

Sidenote: I re-watched HIGH FIDELITY earlier this week and Zoe Kravitz looks exactly like her mom Lisa Bonet from that film. In fact it took me a while to believe that it wasn’t 2000 Lisa Bonet starring in a 2015 film.