All hail Grantland‘s Wesley Morris for looking askance at the bizarre euphoria that has greeted Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope, and for standing on my side of the debate. “You can see Famuyiwa going for a certain class of skuzzy Los Angeles odyssey, like the ones of Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson,” Morris observes. “[But] this is more like Doug Liman‘s Go, which was like Kwik-E-Mart Tarantino. But Dope isn’t made with even the sustained wit of Go. It has its moments, all of which involve the attempt to humorously unpack racial baggage. There just aren’t nearly enough.
And yet Dope “has been the most hotly auctioned film of the festival,” Morris notes. “I don’t know whether Open Road and Sony Pictures, who’ve acquired Dope, went for it because it feels, to them, authentically black or because the blackness is familiar to the world’s marketplaces.” Or because Famuyiqwa is supplying the kind of “black shit [that] white people like.”
“Going for something Tarantino-esque, Dope has the aforementioned gratuitous nude drive with a nose full of Molly, among other social-media-friendly humiliations. As the movie lumbers toward the finish, it drags with it an audience apparently hungry for the gallery of stereotypes Famuyiwa thinks he’s upended. Nothing here is as fresh as the filmmakers think it is. These black characters are crammed into a box that Famuyiwa lacks the imagination to think beyond. The characters’ fetishization of the 1990s holds for him, too.”