Dolemite Is My Name makes you think anything is possible
Netflix goes into 2020 gathering Oscar heat with a gritty biopic boasting a big-name star. Do we mean Robert De Niro’s epic gangster drama The Irishman? That’s good, yes, but we’re actually talking about Dolemite Is My Name, a hugely inspiring true story about Rudy Ray Moore, a man with a plan as big as his heart.
Eddie Murphy gives – we’re going to say it – a career-best performance as Rudy, born into hardship and unhappy with his lot. By day, Rudy struggles to make ends meet in a record shop, while dreaming of the big time. When a homeless man wanders in and starts shouting about a character called Dolemite, Rudy befriends him and develops a thirst for more stories. Inspiration strikes and Rudy creates the Dolemite persona as a stage act – think a smart-talking super-pimp – and becomes a hit on the nightclub scene. Audiences can’t get enough of his outlandish tales.
This is the sort of film that makes you think anything is possible – it’s just about finding the project that ignites the passion. Indeed, the clubs prove just the start for Rudy; a cinema trip with pals to see The Front Page in 1974 plants another seed. White audiences lap up filmmaker Billy Wilder’s wit, but Rudy and his friends fail to see the funny side – and so they decide to make their own film, and the often-hilarious shoot is lovingly recreated here.
One scene, in which Eddie chastises a superbly snotty Wesley Snipes (as actor D’Urville Martin) on set, is the sort of moment that causes the hairs to stand on the back of the neck, bringing to mind the adage that there are two types of people: those who try and those who sneer. Choose your side wisely.
Eddie and his team have created something special: an inspiring story that resonates with everyone, regardless of background. Come Oscar night on Sunday 9 February, that could count for a lot. Given Rudy’s life story, how fitting that the underdog is still looking to upset the odds more than 11 years after his death.
Dolemite Is My Name is on Netflix now