Over the past few decades, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski have carved a niche for themselves in Hollywood. Although they’ve written in other genres, they’ve found the most success writing biopics about off-kilter or notorious individuals. The tone of these movies combines sharp social commentary and tragicomedy to create some of the best examples of the genre. Their scripts Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon, Big Eyes, and The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story have all attracted A-list talent behind and in front of the camera because of the strength of their writing, the allure of their movies’ subjects, and the relevance of their stories’ themes.
Most recently in this line of biopics is Dolemite Is My Name. Set in the 1970s, the film follows comedian Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy, in his best performance in years) as he sets out to find his own place in the entertainment industry. Initially a singer, Moore eventually finds moderate success as a comedian. Although his original jokes are mostly hacky observations, he revamps his routine upon hearing homeless men tell stories and develops a character from those stories: Dolemite. On stage, Dolemite is a fowl-mouthed pimp who rhymes in a poetic, rap-like rhythm, the punchlines often being lewd or profane (in the best way possible). After Moore records his first album, he becomes a cult hit in Black neighbors and Moore decides to expand his brand to film. The production is low-budget to say the least, but through Moore’s drive, optimism, and comedy, he and his crew (including the unenthusiastic director and co-star D’Urville Martin, played by Wesley Snipes) eventually make the cult classic Blaxploitation comedy Dolemite.
Perhaps the best thing about Dolemite Is My Name is how relevant it is in today’s film industry. Throughout the film, Moore tries to sell his comedy records and, later, his movie to white executives. Those characters for the most part don’t get it. They don’t understand the comedy and they’re unwilling to take a risk on Moore. That is, until they see how much money his work makes. Although the movie itself is optimistic and hilarious, it also notes that it’s often an uphill battle for non-white creatives to find success in the industry. Things are changing, but sadly, it’s still relevant today. This morning, the Oscar nominations were released, and the acting nominations were once again mostly white, with only one exception. Dolemite Is My Name was snubbed completely despite the fact Murphy, Snipes, and Da’Vine Joy Randolph (perfect as Lady Reed) gave three of the best performances last year. The film didn’t even show up in the costume category, which it should have been a shoe-in for at the very least.
Regardless of awards recognition, Dolemite Is My Name is still an amazing example of the comedic biopic. The movie features a strong lead who, through his passionate commitment, pursues a goal and achieves it. It’s one of the funniest movies of the year, and the best Eddie Murphy movie since the 90s. Read the script, watch the movie, and enjoy!