Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, Anders Holm, J.B. Smoove, Cedric the Entertainer
Written for the screen and directed by: Chris Rock
Metacritic Rating: 81
IMDb Rating: 6.7
Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, crude humor, language throughout and some drug use
To describe Chris Rock as a comedian: Brilliant, hilarious, real, a mix of Hicks and Pryor with boundless energy.
To describe Chris Rock’s movie career: Horrible, money grabbing, uninspired, disappointing and a complete 180 to his stand-up comedian roots.
You know who seems to know this? Chris Rock, apparently. Because in his latest movie, which he also wrote and directed, we get to see an unflinchingly honest and at times self-loathing look into the mind of a comedic genius and what makes him tick and what makes his stomach churn.
Andre Allen (Rock) is a former comedian who is trying to shy away from his comedic roots to become a serious actor. He is also getting married in a live Bravo special with his reality star girlfriend Erica Long (Union). The movie chronicles his day where his film is opening, he has his bachelor party and is being interviewed for a profile by journalist Chelsea Brown (Dawson).
There are few films that deconstruct the honesty of being talented and the way society conforms you to be what it is you should be. To some, Top Five is a comedy because it stars Chris Rock, and he has to be funny. And he is, but to just make Top Five into a comedy will be missing the point entirely of the film itself.
Chris Rock’s Top Five is a film about how expectations of others don’t matter and it’s about the expectations of himself; a film that could have been destructively self-indulgent but is a very insightful, self loathing look at the mistakes and pitfalls one goes through to find his own center. Rock’s toying of expectations is one of the more powerful aspects of this movie. It’s much like Rock himself at his best: you shouldn’t know what to expect or how far he will go to get an emotion (or laugh).
The film makes the character of Andre Allen surprisingly sympathetic mainly because of how he deconstructs his mistakes and misgivings. A lot of these types of films, with few exceptions, depict the plight of a creative person as little more than a “First World Problem” exacerbated into 2 hours of “I’m brilliant, why can’t you just love me?!”. What makes the character so fresh and different is his willingness to show his fears and his reality.
The fears are one thing: any movie of any storyline of any consequence can use fear as a dynamic character trait. Top Five uses it as the start of a defining point of the film itself. It shows what few films will honestly show: the disillusionment of fame and entertainment.
Which, really, is the story of what Top Five plays on so well. Every moment, whether it’s cringe-worthy or can be deemed somewhat sad, is told in a vibrant, humor-laced way that is enjoyable to watch. At no point will you feel that the character is whiny or bitchy, but on the other hand you’ll also appreciate the humanity and mistakes that this character makes throughout.
Yes, the movie does cop-out into somewhat of a standard romantic comedy at certain spots, but it doesn’t detract from the main storyline. This is also because Rosario Dawson plays such a likable foil to Rock’s Andre; the partnership/quasi-report dynamic works really well to show the inner depths of the main character without it feeling like just a simple plot device. This is particularly difficult to do, yet juggling these types of framing devices and plot lines were exceptionally done.
The supporting cast is surprisingly good as well, including a rather fun and surprisingly not annoying performance by Cedric the Entertainer. In fact, all of the performances seemed measured to a point where there really wasn’t an odd standout or an annoying occurrence, which surprisingly includes the Ellen character, who is funnily performed by Gabrielle Union.
The final point to be made in this film is Rock’s sense of place and style in the film. You would never believe that the person who directed Head of State and I Think I Love My Wife directed a movie with such a definitive and resonating style. : the whip smart yet authentic feel to the dialogue meshes so well with the great use of setting and place, while giving the film a satirical feel that is so distinct.
To put it quite simply, this is the movie that we were waiting for from Chris Rock. A movie that simply couldn’t be done by another talent, Rock’s use of camera, his humor, charm and willingness to even question his own motives brings one of the best films about the creative process since Adaptation. and 8 1/2. Few films can be cinematic, honest and heartbreaking without having issues with pace and style.
Top Five gave us something that I can only hope we’ll see more of: Rock grow as a filmmaker.
5/5 – Top Five is not only the best Chris Rock movie, it’s simply one of the best films about the creative process in years. Must see.
The Wiz Says #13