Review: Dolemite Is My Name (15)

Arnojya Shree reviews the latest outing from comedy legend Eddie Murphy

Arnojya Shree
10th December 2019
If Christmas gifts arrived in a raggedy-looking box, would you still be excited about them? Debatable. But Dolemite’s strange appeal isn’t. Some film narratives make you want to dive head-in but with 'Dolemite Is My Name', that wouldn’t work.

It’s a film which takes some getting used to, but the process happens quite so subtly that before you even realise, you would find yourself wanting to know the whole story. The narrative is loud, lewd and non-cosmeticized which is perhaps how every inspirational success story unfolds in the long run.

Eddie Murphy has made a remarkable comedic return to the big screens by breathing life into Dolemite’s unpolished, tenacious and persevering character. When it comes to direction, any film with an aura of being a biopic, especially the one which tells the story of a coloured person from back in the days when racial differences were on the forefront, has a sensitivity to it. Therefore, its accurate and respectful portrayal is a big concern and, Craig Brewer, the director of the film does exactly that. In terms of representation and creativity, the film proves to be a success. 

The real-life comedy pioneer Rudy Ray Moore (1927-2008). Image: IMDB

Dolemite is My Name’ follows the success-story of Rudy Ray Moore, a 1970-80s sensation who achieved fame by creating the character of Dolemite and who as Snoop Dogg puts it, “was the first man to put rap and rhyme to rhythm”. It’s the 70s and Moore is working as an Assistant Manager in LA at a record store and a nightclub where he hosts the night programs. His dreams of fame and success haven’t gone as planned, and the albums he had recorded are gathering dust in his aunt’s house.

In the first half of the film, the power of observation and a perfectly timed epiphany gives Moore the idea of creating the character of Dolemite who raps with a rhyme about absurd scenarios in an obscene, comical way. Like any other determined artist, he decides to take the reins of destiny in his own hand by self-recording and producing his new material. The marketing of the album happens from the back trunk of Moore’s car and the promotion, happens by going from town-to-town in America and doing gigs at the nightclub. 

In the film’s second half, Moore works towards fulfilling his dream of producing a “Dolemite” movie which tells his personal story of dealing with the nightlife, nightclubs and their owners, mobsters and money disappearances. This is a gritty personal story of sexual and power politics, but Moore puts a comedic spin on it with exaggerated dramatic action, which transforms it into a Dolemite narrative. 

The charm of Moore is a vital experience of its own because it presents to the viewers a man, who has become a musician, a stand-up comedian and finally an action star all through the virtue of “willing himself into it”. He is crude and ready to do just about anything to succeed in life. It is Moore’s desperate tenacity and betting everything against all odds to make his dream come true which succeeds in taking a hold of its viewers. The narrative attempts to make its viewers feel hopeful by sharing the story of a man who managed to become the “Godfather of Rap” through nothing but a persistent attitude and an unshakable belief in himself. 

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