TOP FIVE (2014)

Written & Directed By: Chris Rock 
Cinematography By: Manuel Alberto Claro 
Editor: Annie McGabe 

Cast: Chris Rock, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco, J.B. Smoove, Rosario Dawson, Anders Holm, Leslie Jones, Kevin Hart, Michael Che, Jay Pharoah, Ben Vereen, Cedric The Entertainer, Karlie Redd, Sherri Shepherd, Tracy Morgan, Hayley Marie Norman, Brian Regan, Tichina Arnold, Luis Guzman, Sherrod Small

A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancée talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show.

This more than makes up for those GROWN-UP movies. Coincidently Chris Rock wrote the screenplay in his trailer during the filming of Grown Ups 2

Financed and produced independently.

Chris Rock doesn’t choose like other filmmakers to romanticize or sugarcoat New York as a wonderland of fantasy and fairy tales. He wants to represent New York as it truly is beautiful, yet with an attitude but a certain charm you cannot resist. It has an ugly side, but usually like it so much and in love with it we take the good with the bad and barely notice anymore the rougher aspects of the city. Sure the visuals could be more vivid, but as it is said comedy isn’t pretty plus it keeps your head in the game that this is somewhat gritty and real.

We all see and experience things differently. This is his truth so can’t argue with his vision. We can only be happy he doesn’t compromise in any way. Which is said of more artistically inclined or visual directors? Though should be said of more directors who are open and have something to say that isn’t cookie cutter.

While some aspects of the film could have been more subtle, Their meaning was in the right place. Nonetheless, the film leaves plenty of laugh out loud comedy.

You can see the film’s cinematic influences here and there. There is a little SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS by the end. A dash of BEFORE SUNRISE in the structure. Some Woody Allen references and some things leftover from his co-Starring role In Julie Delpy’s 2 DAYS IN NEW YORK.

The film feels cathartic for him, Going around the city, not necessarily discovering it. As it is both their hometown, but more or less touring familiar places.

Throughout the film, each major and some minor cast members get a scene here and there to shine dramatically or comedically, sometimes both.

The film has some commentary on race and especially stardom. Not exactly the exposure you might expect, but at least exposure to it. Shocking especially how outspoken he has been recently about it in interviews.

Rock’s Films before always managed to shine the spotlight on race though felt more like a gimmick and silly, rather than the satire and sharp voice you were hoping for.

I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE was funny, realistic, and a step forward, but lacked the edge and felt more like a bit of an acting exercise with some domestic comedy and drama. Though the film didn’t exactly cover any new ground or present it in a different way.

As he spends the day with the reporter getting to know her. He is revealed to us as they are to one another usually in flashbacks to the stories they tell and the answers that are given as visuals to accompany them.

Rosario Dawson really gets a chance to flex her acting muscles here. She is finally not just the girlfriend or love interest with no personality or real presence. Here she is charming, complex, and real not necessarily an ingénue. Here she has depth and getting the chance to be comedic herself. Not by accident either.

There are certain Flashbacks in this film that are downright scandalous. That involves Rosario Dawson and Chris Rock. Those are nasty, revealing, and push the limits of what can be shown on screen in an r-rated comedy. Though they are the spirit of Chris Rock, this film and his comedy. They are just as dangerous he is. It reminds the audience why he is a crucial voice in comedy.

Also, these flashbacks work as it breaks up the dialogue and story in a meaningful way. So that the asides and stories are more revealing in character and also provide a source of comedy also. The vignettes sometimes with just the reaction are hilarious but always manages to come back to harsh realities.

The strip club scenes best the end of the film are filled with hilarious cameos that remind us of how funny the people in them can be and are also fun seeing them all out of their element and still can be funny. As they are obviously doing it as a favor to Chris rock

though I have usually really enjoyed Chris rock’s films before. I LOVED this film and was quite surprised when others around me saw this film before me remark on how shocked they were that it was so good. (Some of whom I have watched his films with and they enjoyed them. at least that is what they told me. Only a few I knew didn’t like his earlier work in films) I believe the reason this film worked so well for the audience is that not only is it personal. It also shows growth.

He opens up and lets others stand in the spotlight on the sidelines. Even though the major hurdles are on his shoulders. This is why you can excuse when some scenes come off as falsies a bit as does his acting once in awhile. As the saying goes in any sport. Sure you have the star athlete but you also want to have as much talent around them to learn and also to help. Teach and have each other strive and inspire one another.

As a Chris Rock fan, this film means a lot as it is a thank you to a degree to the fans and a treat as he shows he still has it and is finally comfortable being himself. Speaking his thoughts and not worrying so much about how people will take things, nor does he care about maintaining a certain image. It is almost also a fuck you to doubters as he shows he is just not one thing. As this might be one of the last times he might be able to make a film so why not with something you can be proud of and be able to say what you want to without having to worry about censoring it because of studio notes or worrying about what is or isn’t marketable.

He manages to bring an old school feel to the film while making it feel constantly vital. Especially as in some scenes the background score is classic hip-hop beats slowed down that it almost sounds classical as they are laid bare. I hope he stays on his current path.

Dave Chappelle was offered a role but turned it down. Which makes sense as he has a lot of comedians and comedian friends throughout play roles.

In the movie, Chris Rock can be seen wearing a Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt. Rock is a well-known fan and friend of the band. He even directed the band’s 2006 music video for their song ‘Hump de Bump.’

Chris Rock has always been a comedian. who seemed to strive for more or to be seen as more. He seems to be striving to be more of an artist. I have watched his career rise as I was always familiar with him and looked up to him. So he has been around on my radar for a while.

Though I have had a few chances to meet him. At most of my retail jobs. I never had the courage nor really the chance to tell him how much of a fan I was. His comedy and career have always been a bond with me and my family as I have seen his live yours regularly as well as usually going to see his films in the theater.

This film had a positive effect on me. Making me profoundly happy. I am happy that he is getting the respect and appreciation he deserves.

I believe even non-fans or occasional ones will enjoy and respect the film.

Though the meaning is there. The film has it’s targeting and lands some solid hits. Though not as many jabs were thrown. Can be rude and lewd out of nowhere but that is part of the charm as it is smart about it.

Grade: B+

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