Alas this wasn’t our first choice but it turns out the UK is trailing behind the US when it comes to some new releases and so here we are. It’s plain rude, frankly but I’m not dwelling on it – The Nightingale will have its time.
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by this bio of real-life visionary Rudy Ray Moore which boasts a wicked cast and had me to the very end of it’s hefty run time.
Dolemite is My Name (2019)
Eddie Murphy portrays real-life legend Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer who proved naysayers wrong when his hilarious, obscene, kung-fu fighting alter ego, Dolemite, became a 1970s Blaxploitation phenomenon.
Los Angeles, 1970s and Rudy Ray Moore (Murphy) is a record store employee and struggling recording artist/stand-up comedian. He begs the store’s in-house DJ (Snoop Dogg) to play his records which he refuses to do, favouring instead the dulcet tones of Marvin Gaye. One day a homeless man comes to the store and starts ranting in rhyme, one of his proclamations features someone called ‘Dolemite’.
Rudy gets the idea to create an onstage persona, inspired by this exchange – he dresses as a pimp with a cane and takes to the stage with a crude set he’s written called The Signifying Monkey. The club crowd loves it and people finally start to take notice of Rudy and his unique brand of talent. This leads him to approach his aunt for the $250 he needs to record a comedy record – called Eat Out More Often – which he’s forced to sell out of the back of his car when he refuses to clean up his act for the one producer who shows an interest.
The album, of course, proves very popular within the black community and a record company picks it up, promising to market it in stores. On his ensuing national tour, Rudy meets the amazing Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) who joins his act. While visiting another city on tour, Rudy and his friends decide to go to the cinema to let off some steam. Eager for something to laugh at, they settle on Billy Wilder’s The Front Page. Unfortunately, none of them find it remotely amusing or relateable, while the mostly white audience think it’s a scream – and it is here that Rudy decides they’re going to make their own movie.
Despite zero movie making experience and multiple funding knock backs, Rudy manages to convince his label to finance the movie using an advance on the royalties from his latest album. He plans to star as central character Dolemite himself. The movie, also called Dolemite, is a kung-fu Blaxploitation movie. With the help of reluctant playwright Jerry Jones (Key) and even less enthusiastic Rosemary’s Baby actor D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes), Rudy rounds out his creative team. He also brings in a crew of college students to shoot the movie and takes over an abandoned hotel with no running water or electricity.
To say they’ve got their work cut out is an understatement and Dolemite is My Name centers around their efforts to get the film made and then distributed. It’s a pet project of such determination that you just can’t help being caught up in it. I rooted for the whole crew from the get go. The film is reminiscent in subject matter (kind of) to The Disaster Artist and the sheer single-mindedness of Rudy is not unlike that of real-life Tommy Wiseau.
I’m not always Eddie Murphy’s biggest fan to be honest but I did very much enjoy him in this role. He seems more at home in more adult roles and it’s refreshing to have him playing just the one character, rather than every character. I have massive love for Keegan-Michael Key and Craig Robinson (who I find crazy attractive). It was also nice to see Tituss Burgess again, Titus Andromedon is everything to me. The film has real heart and the real-life Rudy must have been an incredible man.
I enjoy movies about underdogs that come out on top in the end – and this is a shining example of that sub-genre. It’s also fascinating to learn more about a man and a film I never would have ordinarily. Being a middle-aged white woman and all. Perhaps one day Jill and I will find and review Dolemite on these very blogs. It has an all-female kung-fu army after all, what’s not to love?