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Review: Drug-dealing drama 'MDMA' falls short of feeling ecstatic

Review: Drug-dealing drama 'MDMA' falls short of feeling ecstatic
Annie Q., left, and Francesca Eastwood in the movie "MDMA." (Shout! Studios)

Other than USA Network’s “Queen of the South,” most TV and movie narratives about drug dealers and drug lords focus on male protagonists. Refreshingly, “MDMA” takes a different route, but it isn’t just for now-fashionable feminism’s sake. First-time director Angie Wang brings her own story of dealing dominance to the screen, giving audiences a picture of an Asian American woman rarely represented in film, even if that picture isn’t as engaging as viewers hungering for something different might hope.

It’s 1984, and Ecstasy is in its infancy. Angie (Annie Q.) has left her working class roots in New Jersey for life as a freshman at a fancy Bay Area college, befriending her roommate Jeanine (Francesa Eastwood) and fellow chemistry student Tommy (Scott Takeda). When the massive tuition bills arrive, she decides to use her skills with both science and partying to sell “E,” which is still a rarity on campus and beyond. She takes over the local industry, but it begins to infringe on her classes and her friendships.

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As the film’s sole director, writer and subject, Wang could have used some distance from the material. Subplots are included that do little for the narrative other than cast her on-screen counterpart in a better light. “MDMA” also doesn’t fully communicate the context of Angie’s experience priors to the film, keeping us removed from the character and the movie as a whole.

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‘MDMA’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica, Santa Monica; also on VOD

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