Feelgood Friday Film Club: Dolemite Is My Name

Lockdown Friday Film Club: Dolemite Is My Name

The latest in our series of feelgood streaming suggestions to help see you through lockdown

Whatever you think of Eddie Murphy, get set to change your mind. After a long spell out of the spotlight, Murphy's comeback feature, 2019's Dolemite Is My Name, is a raunchy, energising comedy, based on the story of Rudy Ray Moore, an important entertainer who is, these days, known chiefly to the cultural cognoscenti. Although the Oscar buzz that initially surrounded Murphy's lead performance never came to anything, watching the actor work is spellbinding indeed.

Rising to fame, some might say notoriety, in the 1970s for his stand-up routine and blaxploitation flicks including Dolemite, The Human Tornado and Disco Godfather, Moore was a genuine character and he's a salty, substantial figure around which to structure a story. Having encountered Moore decades earlier, Murphy had been trying to get this biopic off the ground since 2003. Moore's biography by David L Shabazz provides the factual basis of a snappy, insightful script from Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, who both met Moore before his death in 2008, and the whole thing is drawn together with aplomb by director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow).

Trying to break into showbiz, Moore (Murphy) realises his dreams aren't coming true at all. 'How did my life get so small?' he asks a friend. 'I ain't got nothing nobody wants.' Desperate, Moore seeks out Ricco (Ron Cephas Jones), a dishevelled local street dweller who insists he's not a hobo, but a 'repository of African American folklore'. Dressed as a pimp and backed by bongo music, Moore hones Ricco's tall tales into perfect nightclub fodder. When record companies won't help him, he simply sells his recordings from the back of his car.

Without Moore there would be no rap as we know it and his work remains daring, funny and fresh. 'Rudy Ray Moore was a guerrilla filmmaker. If you watch a movie by Rudy Ray Moore and a movie by Fellini, you will have the same reaction,' says Murphy. 'It's like, what the fuck am I watching, what is happening?' With a supporting cast that includes a similarly back-on-form Wesley Snipes, alongside Tituss Burgess, Chris Rock and Keegan-Michael Key, if you're searching for feelgood fare, don't overlook this slice of unconventional wonder – an uplifting, sweary and hilarious story of triumph over adversity which, lockdown or no lockdown, will put some pep back in your step.

Available to watch on Netflix now.

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