Advanced Showing: My Dope Movie Review

We're visiting College Park, Maryland this week for my daughter to compete in National History Day. While we were at Staples printing some last minute items for her display, a gentleman who was making copies ahead of us offered us a pass to see an advanced showing of the movie Dope nearby the next day. I was going to take a hard pass, since I had no idea how to get there and this whole week has been a little overwhelming the driving department, but my daughter, let's call her Stella, started begging me right away for the chance to see it.

"It's going to be a new cult classic, Mom."
"Seriously, it's going to be like the Breakfast Club of my generation."
"I saw a preview and I know your're going to love it."

So, like the high-class broads we are, we hit the Red Lobster and managed to find the IMAX Theater for this showing. We were checked with a wand at the door and warned right before the showing not to take any pictures or video during the show. The music during the wait was top-notch-- nothing beats the music of the 90s.

Then the movie started. It totally captivated me from the first scene. Malcom loves 90s hip hop, he gets straight As, he's got two great friends, a loving single mom who works a fair amount as a city bus driver and a dream to go to Harvard. He's a nerd, on the wrong side of a group of school bullies who have clearly taken his tennis shoes more than once. To avoid a gang fight on his way home from school he cuts across a street that puts him in the path of a drug dealer who takes a liking to him. That in turn puts him in front of the girl of his dreams.

One thing leads to another and Malcom and his friends find themselves in a layer of wrong turns that end up with them needing to sell Molly to survive. The scenes that follow feel like Pulp Fiction meets Super Bad meets Boys in the Hood. They're in turn heady, absurd, thought-provoking, laughter-inducing, realistic, unrealistic and touching. The deeper Malcom gets the more he changes and yet the more he stays the same. He's playing the game he needs to play to survive and in the process he becomes both more the man he wants to be and less. It's complicated and in the end so is Malcom. Malcom's race, his poverty, his circumstances and his chances are intertwined and the movie touches on these issues both subtly and not so subtly.

As a 30-something white woman with the sheen of privilege that I carry with me, I am sure I'm not able to fully appreciate or understand how the movie authentically captures these issues. But, I do know that it made me think about inequity in expectations, circumstances and opportunity and the way power and institutions support these. Of course Malcom and his friends can't take a bag of dope to the police and when Malcom calls this out the theater fills with laughter, but the injustice is real and the sentiment is true no doubt. And, though the movie deals with drugs and violence in ways that make me worry as a mother, I am also not the authority on the authentic world of the teenagers this movie depicts in any sense.

Stella loved the movie and can't wait to see it again. It got us talking about drugs like Molly, about injustice, about the important activism she has been involved with in solidarity with Black Lives Matter through our church youth group. And, I'm sure when this movie comes to theaters, my husband who grew up in LA will want to go and see it. And Stella and I will be happy to pay for our tickets and see it one more time. Actually, Stella just told me she prefers to see it with her friends next time.