Director : Chris Rock
Writer : Chris Rock
Chris Rock writes, directs and stars in Top Five, but it's obvious pretty quickly that he's not an actor that can carry a film. Realistically we already knew that, but he reminds us anyway having Chelsea (Rosario Dawson) tell his character, Andre, that he's not a "very good actor". He may as well be apologising directly to the audience, and then proves his point by verbalising his emotions rather than performing them throughout the film.
The premise of Top 5 has popular comedian/actor Andre Allen (Chris Rock) spending the day with a New York Times journalist (Dawson) as part of his promotional duties for his new “serious” film. Complicating his day is the impending televised wedding to reality show superstar Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) where he is becoming a passenger to the Bravo Producers who are running the show.
Casting Rosario Dawson as the journalist and potential love interest, was a mistake. She's so good that she makes Chris seem more Wood than Rock. But again I think he knows this. The scene where he doesn't commit to the skipping rope on the street epitomises their differences. He makes the face of someone about to jump in and sways from side to side, ghosting the rope, but he never leaves the ground. Meanwhile Dawson jumps straight in and she soars.
Chris Rock is a transcendent stand-up comedian. His HBO Comedy specials put him into the comedy stratosphere, but whether he develops into a strong film-making voice remains to be seen. The movie is funny, but most of the funny stuff is independent from the narrative and the attempts at drama are tough to watch. The Supermarket scene in particular is an embarrassment to anyone who has seen Leaving Las Vegas.
Top 5 blends fiction with real life, with Rock basically playing himself and many scenes exist only as thinly veiled excuses for "bits'. The movie only really comes alive when there are other comedians on screen. Sandler and Seinfeld have welcome cameos and the Saturday Night Live crew support well. J.B. Smooth is great as always and his appearance gets you thinking that this could work better as a Larry David'esque series rather than a movie. Surely a day in slightly fictionalised life of Chris Rock would be far more compelling.
Similar to Birdman, the theme that Top 5 is shooting for is an actor attempting to shun his popular success for legitimate acclaim. For Micheal Keaton it was to adapt a Raymond Chandler novel for the stage, and for Chris Rock it's dumping his Bear suit for a Haitian slave drama. While it's a worthy enough premise, in Birdman the message was wrapped in a film with outstanding performances and exciting direction, but here the message is lost in a movie that doesn't feel particularly serious at all.
When Andre is feeling lost and pulled back towards his cheesy movie franchise and reality TV world, it’s a microphone that he grabs onto to keep himself steady. It’s standup where he is most comfortable, at his best and his happiest and like many other things, it’s quite likely that Chris Rock knows this about himself too.
Not Required Viewing