By now we've all seen the typical coming-of-age story where a teenager discovers his voice and, in all honesty, many of them never set themselves apart from the herd. Yet, Rick Famuyiwa's unique vision, Dope, is anything but typical. Using a rare blend of originality and character development, the former Sundance selection provides a singular voice in an often derivative-filled genre.
Set on the rough streets of Inglewood, California, Dope follows a geeky high school senior named Malcolm (played by Shameik Moore) who dreams of one day attending Harvard. But when Malcolm finds himself haphazardly caught up in a drug selling operation that he can't escape, he looks to his fellow nerd friends, Diggy and Jib, to help rid him of his product and return to the straight and narrow path. Unfortunately, many obstacles lie in his way that force Malcolm to recognize that the world isn't always black and white.
Dope uses the rare vantage point of a brainy African American teen growing up in the slums of California, possessing absolutely zero street-smarts, to bring a compassionate and effective story of self discovery to light. As both director and writer of this fine script, Rick Famuyiwa excels in both departments. His sometimes unrealistic and far-fetched developments in the plot become overshadowed by phenomenal performances from his trio of intellectual goofballs. Shameik Moore shines in a breakout role, while The Grand Budapest Hotel's Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons bring a completeness to the group with their noteworthy co-starring work.