Thursday, 1 October 2015


Strange how the most self-aware films are often also those with the least self-awareness, practically speaking. It would seem that the security of style that these films trade in largely rebuffs variation in interpretation, insisting instead on their own opinion of themselves. Rick Famuyiwa's Dope has a rather contradictory view of itself, not least in that its affectations infer that its level of self-awareness is high, while its unintentional hypocrisy dictates that this level is actually fairly low. This is a slick film, too slick in fact, but its swagger is earned - such an amount of effort has gone into making Dope feel effortless that you can forgive the filmmakers from getting a little high off their own product. No doubt they keep it lively, engaging and both visually and sonically interesting, though the problems begin to arise not in that Dope fails to push any boundaries in this regard, but that it seems to think that it does in others. Certainly, purporting to transcend cliche and stereotype, then reverting back to them in the very same scene, character, even line of dialogue, is a radical way of proposing a fresh discussion on racial and cultural aspects of American society, but that's not what Dope intends to do. Its sights are set higher, on serving as a voice of authority in this discussion, when it simply can't construct its argument with sufficient clarity to earn this. And thus, the self-awareness that drives this film, and surely engenders so much of its most appealing attributes, is the foremost reason that it doesn't work - it's so determined to prove to the viewer what kind of film it is, it neglects to even prove it to itself.