DOLEMITE IS MY NAME - This is Eddie Murphy's Game
Dolemite is My Name is a love-letter of a biopic that’s carried by Eddie Murphy’s amazingly layered performance as Rudy Ray Moore.
“I got something to offer.”
Of all the hilarious and inspirational lines that are uttered in Dolemite is My Name, the 2019 biographical comedy from Craig Brewer about the life of Rudy Ray Moore, this one stood out to me. While many will rightfully see Dolemite is My Name as a fitting comeback performance by Eddie Murphy, who portrays the title character, and a belly laugh producing one at that, there is something deeper to this film.
This is a story about a man, who came from extremely humble conditions, that knew he had something to offer the world. Even if people kept telling him no, he took charge, hustled his ass off, and made a name for himself. Anyone who has ever tried to make a living in a creative field will relate to the story of Rudy Ray Moore.
That story, as told by Dolemite Is My Name, is a pretty straight forward approach to a biopic. The film, which has a vibrant 1970’s color palette and production design, opens with Moore working at an L.A. record store that happens to have a radio station inside. Moore hustles to try and get his music played on the air, but the DJ (Snoop Dogg) isn’t willing to listen. Moore also faces hurdles at his job serving at an emcee for a nightclub band. Moore knows he has talent and the drive to get it to the point, but he’s missing that gimmick to put it over the top.
Said gimmick comes to him by way of a local bum, who has a knack for reciting dirty rhymes and stories. Moore flat-out copies the lurid tales of this man and other bums to create a jive-talking and jive rhyming character named Dolemite. When he debuts the character on stage, it becomes an instant success, and it’s off to the races for Rudy Ray Moore.
The first part of the film deals with Moore experiencing the initial success of the Dolemite character while taking the act on the road through clubs in the deep south. Said success is driven by Dolemite making his own albums and hustling them on the streets, which gets the attention of an actual record company. While he is on the road, he meets Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), who eventually becomes a friend and trusted companion in Moore’s next attempt at stardom.
That attempt involves the creation of a Dolemite movie. The second half of the film details all the hijinks and troubles that came about while Moore and his friends, who have no idea how to make a movie, try to make a movie. This is where the bulk of the cast gets to shine. You see some pretty hilarious moments from the likes of Mike Epps, Tituss Burgess, and Wesley Snipes, who plays D’Urville Martin, the coke-finger having director of Dolemite.
All of this, though, is anchored by the amazing performance from Eddie Murphy. It is no secret that Rudy Ray Moore is someone Eddie Murphy admired a great deal, and what you see on screen is evidence of that. Sure, Murphy was influenced by the likes of Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx, but Rudy Ray Moore must be seen as a big influence of what Murphy did during his stand-up career.
Murphy pays this influence back by wonderfully revisiting his dirty roots and dropping F-bombs and other assorted profanities from start to finish. It is delightful to see Eddie Murphy be dirty again, and it’s even more delightful to see him having so much fun doing it.
I grew up a wrestling fan, and I still am one to this day, so I tend to equate a lot of things with that world. One of the key elements in the film is how Moore admits he’s not Dolemite. It’s just a character and gimmick. There is even a line in the movie about how Moore admits to becoming a superhero by putting on a cape. Moore, and by extension, the film understands this very important part to the whole presentation of Dolemite. This was all about a very particular brand of escapism for audiences that understood and wanted exactly what Rudy Ray Moore was spitting.
With that said, Eddie Murphy also gets the humanity of Rudy Ray Moore across and understands who he was when the Dolemite character was turned off. When the wig and cane and cape and rhymes were all put to the side, Rudy Ray Moore is presented as simply someone who just wanted the world to know he existed.
The film brings up Moore’s troubled past of growing up in a family of sharecroppers and wanting to get back at that life and the abusive father figure in his past. This drives all of Rudy’s hustling and efforts to get his albums made and then to get his movie made. He wasn’t just a tireless self-promoter. He was really trying to make a mark in a world that dealt him a bad hand right out of the gate.
Dolemite is My Name is an unashamed love-letter to someone who was very influential and important in the lives of those responsible for making this film. It’s also a love-letter to the art of hustling and the DIY attitude. I’m sure Craig Brewer could relate to the efforts of Rudy Ray Moore and his friends in trying to make a movie out of nothing.
Hell, anyone that’s created something can relate to that and relate to doing it despite being told no. I know I can, and that’s why Dolemite Is My Name made a connection with me past it’s colorful, creative, and abundant use of profanity.
See Dolemite is My Name for the dynamic performance from Eddie Murphy and then realize you’re also seeing a story about the struggles and successes of an artist that ultimately finds his hilariously dirty and jive talking voice.