REVIEW: Fresh Dressed

4 09 2015

Fresh DressedSacha Jenkins’ documentary “Fresh Dressed” fills in some gaps in my knowledge of the style industry that sprung up concurrently with the rise of hip-hop.  But beyond that, it serves little effective purpose.

Sure, he interviews plenty of distinguished scholars who add some valuable two cents, such as how the black tradition of dressing to impress originated on the slavery plantation.  Later, these talking heads come back to speculate that the beginning of the end for a golden age of black style was precipitated because black businessmen could not catch up with their counterparts who got a head start.

But most of “Fresh Dressed” is a time capsule, preferring to show us the era in all its decadence rather than really unpack it beyond the two big pillars of meaning: self-esteem and class consciousness.  Jenkins lands some huge names for interviews, including Sean “Puffy” Combs, Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and A$AP Rocky, all of whom parrot these major themes excellently.  At the end of the throwback, though, the documentary feels more like a storefront window display than a curated museum exhibit.  C+2stars


21 06 2015

DopeIf writer/director Rick Famuyiwa’s movie “Dope” were one of your friends at a party, he would be the friend that thinks himself invincible when letting any mind-altering substance enter his bloodstream.  This is the guy that thinks every jumbled fragment that leaves his mouth is divinely inspired and merits inclusion in some kind of philosophical toe.  He is the guy that makes dangerous decisions, assuming they are perfectly reasonable, and somehow convinces you to go along with them.

“Dope” tries to subvert racial stereotypes by having a drug dealer who knows what the phrase “a slippery slope” means (yet does not recognize it as a fallacy) and a main character, Shameik Moore’s dorky Malcolm, who prefers the artistry of ’90s hip-hop as opposed to the commercialism of present-day rappers.  The film attempts to be a coming-of-age story, a romance, a drama that grapples with race, a comic drug caper like “Pineapple Express,” and ultimately a heist film.

In other words, Famuyiwa attempts a lot and completes a little; what he does complete does not feel entirely convincing.

I can let a film that does mediocre humor slide – and with tired gags involving a floozy, coked-out heiress, “Dope” has quite a bit to spare. Not every con film needs to reach the heights of “American Hustle,” either.  But blowing what could have served as a vital discussion about racial identity at a time when America really needs to talk about thee issues just left a really bitter taste in my mouth.

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