Unlike some people, I enjoy going into a movie knowing nothing or not much.
So when my friend told me we were going to see a movie called Dope and that A$AP Rocky (a rapper) features in it, I made assumptions about what type of film it might be, but I didn't look up the trailer.
It was better this way - I imagined a dark, gangster film of drug dealing and violence. But what greeted me was hardly that. It was light-hearted with a comedic voice over and a geeky high school movie feel.
The main trio of geeks - Malcolm, Jib and Diggy, share a love for 90's culture and things that aren't your typical "black culture from the hood". For example, they have a punk band and get teased for their love of living in the past.
Initially, I thought I was watching a film set in the 90's until references to Justin Bieber and Bitcoins (a currency on the Internet) came up.
The movie is about growing up in the slums of Inglewood, where having a gun is normal and security screenings at the school entrance is also part of everyday life.
Despite the comedic elements - I felt some undertones and challenges from the film. For example - if this is set in the modern age, then why does the school feel like it's from the past? Is this representing how Inglewood, a predominantly African-American city, is so disadvantaged?
Kids are not expected to go to college from this town - the desire to achieve this is constantly emphasised as out of the norm. Of course, this is Malcolm's dream.
But this desire is also challenged by the temptations, the drugs and the usual crowds. It's almost like all the kids have accepted their fate to follow society's expectations of getting involved in the bad stuff (stealing, guns, MDMA/ecstasy in this case).
It subtly asks a few more questions though. In such a tight-knight community, is getting mixed up in the bad things inevitable? Especially to survive in everyday life in Inglewood and to get where you want?
All these things sound serious - but as I mentioned, the film manages to resist going down the dark movie path by injecting comedic elements into its 90's atmosphere.
It treads the line between a comedic film about social issues and a geek-turned-cool-guy film. I feel it leans a little more towards the latter, but has just enough of both for me to find it refreshingly different from the usual mainstream cinema films.
If unlike me, you want to get to know the movie a bit better before you see it, watch the trailer below:
Dope is showing as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival. At the moment there are no tickets - but their Standby note on the website indicates some more tickets may be released closer to the date, so keep checking!
*My friends won tickets to a pre-screening of this movie and brought me along.