You might not know Shameik Moore yet, but you will.
He’s not the only reason why I was grabbed by this movie: the script is smart, the soundtrack is awesomesauce, and the angle is fresh. But Moore, unknown to me, turns in an A+ performance while writer-director Rick Famuyiwa is making choices I’m quickly becoming addicted to.
The story: Malcolm is a good student in a bad school, a good kid in a bad neighbourhood. He dreams of Harvard and 90s hip hop but on his way to his admissions interview he winds up with a bookbag full of dope. He’s got two friends, Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori – the little bellhop from The Grand Budapest Hotel), and though this charming trio is made up of teacher’s pets and band geeks, they resolve to navigate the dark web and treat their reluctant drug dealing like a 21st century enterprise.
This movie is tonally inconsistent, but it’s not because the film doesn’t know what it is, it’s because it aims to be a bit of everything, and I kind of liked that about it. Famuyiwa means to challenge our notion of what a drug dealer looks like – or what a Harvard applicant looks like, for that matter, but even the film itself defies expectations. It manages to seamlessly integrate these 90s throwbacks into a world where these kids have never bought nor owned a CD. They idolize rap but they play in a punk band. Welcome to 2015. Pharrell Williams and Sean (Diddy) Combs are listed as producers, so you know that shit is solid.
The cast is exceptionally good, and you need them to be to make this story work. Comedy-drama-crime: the film covers a lot of ground, but at its heart it’s an identity crisis, an acknowledgement of our many selves. Famuyiwa is not a newbie but this is his first film where I feel like I actually know him. You can’t infuse a script with this many pop culture references and not reveal yourself. Famuyiwa, I think I’m on to you.