Movie review: ‘Top Five’
* * * 1/2 (A-)
Directed By Chris Rock
Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, JB Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the
Entertainer, Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg
Rated R, Comedy, 101 minutes
Chris Rock worms his way into our hearts during his latest film “Top Five.”
Wearing the hats of writer, director and star, Rock makes the most of his various jobs by choosing a subject near and dear to him. He is Andre Allen, a successful stand-up comedian unable to gain an ounce of respect as a film star.
The story, steeped in Rock’s own life experience, depicts his failure to showcase his talent in movie roles. Rock possesses the unusual qualities of being abrasive, funny and endearing, but, lacking a sufficiently fertile venue to showcase this mix, he comes off as merely abrasive and unpleasant.
Here, Rock smartly pens Andre as a celebrity, out of touch with his own feelings and temporarily forgetting his code of ethics. Having just released “Uprize!,” a historical drama in which he plays a Haitian slave revolutionary, Andre is disappointed to learn that both audiences and the press possess little admiration for his efforts.
Andre is poised to marry Erica Long, a Kim Kardashian-esque reality-show star, played by Gabrielle Union. Wanting to have everything about the wedding her way, Erica is quick to remind her fiance that, “I chose you, when much bigger names wanted to wife me.” Erica shamelessly uses Andre’s lack of press cachet to justify actions such as adding a second set of wedding rings to his purchase, so they are married wearing the most audacious, camera-friendly jewelry possible.
Satirizing reality television stars who are famous for being famous, Rock examines the irony of our fixation with these frequently troubled people whose actual claim to fame is selling millions of “slam sheets.”
While in New York the day after “Uprize!” opens and just two days prior to his impending Los Angeles marriage to Erica, Andre realizes that the same press that happily runs his latest pic into the ground also expresses undying interest in the wedding fever Erica has so carefully, and apparently successfully, crafted.
Approaching Andre to write a fair and balanced profile focused on his career rather than his wedding, comely New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) seems to be the only member of the press who is interested in Andre for himself.
In the interest of writing a definitive piece, Andre challenges Chelsea to dispense with any questions and finds himself surprised by the degree of substance and wit at her fingertips. For her part, Dawson makes the most of this meaty role, one showcasing her intelligence, humor and passion. Bit by bit, a complicated, fascinating woman emerges from behind the tape recorder.
During the course of the next 24 hours, the pair share intimate secrets and experiences as they wander New York City in limousines, by subway and on foot. Finding that they are mutually attracted to one another, Rock’s script examines the pressure exerted on a celebrity to make decisions in their personal lives that will enhance their careers, rather than embracing the personal life likely to bring them the most happiness.
This insightful film gleefully dives beneath the surface of fame to examine the insecurities and the fabrications disrupting and corrupting those who count on notoriety to achieve their ends. “Top Five” shows Andre’s life as the sort of loosely structured mess we can all relate to. Bravo to Rock, who has laid his own fears bare in order to let us see what he sees and feel what he feels.