REVIEW: Top Five

22 12 2014

Too bad for “Top Five” that the title “The Interview” was already claimed for 2014.  Chris Rock’s film, a starring vehicle which he also wrote and directed, gets its narrative motor from a day-long conversation between his character Andre Allen and the probing New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) for a newspaper profile.

Chelsea happens to catch Andre, a successful comedian struggling for credibility as a dramatic actor, on a particularly stressful day.  Not only is it the opening day of his new film about a Haitian slave rebellion, which resembles “12 Years a Slave” more than “Django Unchained,” but it is also the weekend of his marriage to a Kardashian-style Bravo reality star (Gabrielle Union).  That much pressure all at once is about enough to make him relapse into the alcoholism he has controlled for years.

Rather than chew out his publicist for such horrific planning, Andre responds to the stacked schedule by baring his soul in responses to Chelsea (in a manner similar to Rock’s own refreshing candor on the “Top Five” press tour).  He rambles on about moments both somber and hilarious from his career, and Rock usually captures the back-and-forth in a two-shot.  This character arrangement, perfect for verbal volleying like in “Before Midnight,” allows the simultaneous enjoyment of Andre’s outrageous delivery and Chelsea’s often dumbfounded reaction.

Top Five

Rather than a pure two-hander, Rock thankfully makes his film an ensemble comedy littered with top African-American comedic talent.  But like a Wes Anderson film, “Top Five” can often coast by on the strength of some well-placed cameos (only to have the climactic appearance trump all that came before).  Rock does not let these brief appearances completely define the film, though.  He keeps the film focused on the challenges all entertainers face in their professional endeavors with a particular emphasis on the additional hurdles that black entertainers must also clear.

At times, Andre’s political commentary does feel copied and pasted from a compilation video of Chris Rock interviews (since the comedian is hardly reticent about his opinions on such matters).  Even in spite of that, “Top Five” is still worth a watch and a listen for the way it equates the murky ethics of truth-bending that occurs both on reality television and in journalism. This analytical angle allows the artist to do what his character cannot.  Chris Rock, unlike Andre Allen, can engage the brain while also tickling the funny bone.  B2halfstars

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2 responses

22 12 2014
CMrok93

I’ve been a huge fan of Rock for as long as I can remember and this movie reminds me exactly why. Not only is he hilarious, but also shows that he can stretch his dramatic-wings too. Good review Marshall.

23 12 2014
Marshall

Huh, I’ve never found Rock particularly funny or amusing. But this was good, though.

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