Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Rapid Views: Dope and The Overnight

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 in 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.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

If you're adventurous enough to seek out Patrick Brice's uproarious and sometimes uncomfortable indie comedy, The Overnight, then brace yourself for impact because it's one hell of an unforeseen experience. Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling and Jason Schwartzman throw everything on the line in this sexually-infused story of two romantically struggling couples.

A couple weeks after Alex and Emily (Scott and Schilling) move to Los Angeles with their son RJ, they quickly meet friends at the local park. And what they anticipate as a nice and painless dinner party together with the other family, hastily evolves into a free for all that forces the couple decide just how far their willing to take this evening with their hosts (Schwartzman and Judith Godreche).

Despite the indie comedy's fond fascination with the male reproductive organ, so much so that it actually becomes a subplot to the feature, The Overnight uses all of its awkwardness to tell an otherwise interesting story of our own insecurities and deficiencies communicating with the ones we love. Sometimes our likes and dislikes can be extremely difficult to verbalize, especially when it comes to sex. Brice relentlessly forces the audience to hurdle that obstacle of discomfort alongside his genuine set of characters and, by the film's conclusion, it's a breath of fresh air for everyone involved.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

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