Friday, October 25

Dolemite is my Name Review

Dolemite Is My Name

Dir: Craig Brewer

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Wesley Snipes, Mike Epps, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Chris Rock, and Snoop Dogg

In the late 1960’s, the multi-tasking talent Rudy Ray Moore was working at a record store trying to get one of his songs played on the radio station, he was also working the nightclubs in hopes of getting a permanent stand-up comedian gig; Moore was doing everything in his power to break into the Hollywood system, to find fame and notoriety in an industry that strongly exhibited prejudice to people of color. 

But in 1975, at the peak of the Blaxploitation cinema movement where films like “Shaft”, “Super Fly” and “Coffy” found major success beyond the supportive black community, Rudy Ray Moore’s dedication would pay off as the now successful comedian, with a blend of raunchy, boastful anecdotes and braggadocios self-talk, would introduce the world to the legendary stylings of Dolemite.

For a character as bold, confident, and imposing as Rudy Ray Moore was, it would take an actor equally as commanding to compose a representation that was justified for a cinematic biopic. How about Eddie Murphy? “Dolemite Is My Name”, from director Craig Brewer who helmed “Hustle and Flow” and “Black Snake Moan”, is an exceptionally fun film that takes a glimpse into a moment in time for Rudy Ray Moore’s career resolve but also into the independent process of making your celluloid dreams come true. Even with these positive attributes, “Dolemite Is My Name” belongs completely to the impressive performance of Eddie Murphy. 

“Dolemite Is My Name” feels similar in tone and pacing to another biopic, Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood”. Makes perfect sense considering writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski wrote both of these films. The structure of the film is broken up into two different kind of movies; the film begins with a character study, following Rudy Ray Moore through the struggle of chasing his dreams of fame and stardom. It’s an effective design that allows the viewer to gain an understanding of Moore’s determination but also the specific circumstances that offer opportunity and influence creativity for the comedian. There is a great scene where Moore finds his confidence, turning words into a character in front of a mirror.

Eventually the story transitions into something different, it shifts into Moore’s journey into the film industry a trip to the movies left him wondering why films weren’t made for people that looked and talked like him in leading roles, or why films didn’t indulge in the gratuitous, often silly, elements of violence, sex, and nudity. This portion of the film is an absolute treat, displaying the difficulties, the ingenuities, and the early spirit of the independent filmmaking process. It’s completely fun and very humorous watching it all come together.

The cast is fantastic here. Eddie Murphy composes Moore with exuberance and bravado but also keeps clearly visible elements of sadness and desperation behind his eyes and between the tremble of the words he is speaking. It’s nuanced and quiet in small moments but also flashy and buoyant whenever the character Dolemite makes an entrance. Perhaps the standout from the film, alongside Murphy, belongs to Wesley Snipes who absolute nails the performance playing actor D’Urville Martin. Snipes steals every single scene that he is in. 

Director Craig Brewer rarely takes a break in the film, the pace is always fast moving. The melodrama that could sneak in never does, the forced romance and unnecessary conflicts that often take over biopics are pushed back in favor of letting the character of Dolemite chew scenery. While this keeps the film focused on entertainment value, it also keeps the film from delving deeper into the inherit drama associated with being a performer in Hollywood, let alone a black man trying to find his place in a world run by white men.   

Still “Dolemite is my Name” is a funny, heartfelt, and passionate ode to Rudy Ray Moore, the independent filmmaking process, and also the career of comedian Eddie Murphy who gives one the best performances of his career here.

Monte’s Rating

4.00 out of 5.00

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