Top Five Screen 84 of 11 reviews

Top Five

2014

Top Five Poster
  • Mr. Rock’s acknowledged debt to Richard Linklater’s peripatetic “Before” triptych is evident in all the two-shots of Andre and Chelsea walking and talking, but also in how it’s a given from the start that they’re equals. Chelsea gives as good as she gets, yet never at the expense of Andre’s other love interest, Erica (Gabrielle Union), a reality-television star.

  • [Rock's] previous self-directed film, 2007’s I Think I Love My Wife, was based on a chatty Eric Rohmer classic, and watching him play off Julie Delpy in 2 Days in New York (2012) made him seem like a Linklater-ready natural. That impulse is further pursued in the dazzling Top Five—on the surface, a lost-artist comedy in the vein of Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories, but more deeply, a referendum on the dead-end choices Rock himself might be feeling.

  • Top Five is the great leap forward for Rock’s filmmaking that Feel the Pain was for his standup. He creates an independent persona, “Andre Allen,” who is as smart, witty, and complicated as Rock himself, then crafts a scenario that allows Allen to earn our laughter—and even our romantic identification with his amorous longings.

  • My TIFF concluded on another high note with Chris Rock’s Top Five. Halfway between fiction and autobiography, it follows a day in the life of star comic and recovering alcoholic Andre Allen (Rock), his career at a crossroads and his wedding a few days away. A luminous Rosario Dawson is the New York Times journalist who takes to the streets of New York with him. The script is not without contrivance, but the overall effect is incisively rude, lewd, and hilariously cathartic.

  • For the next 100 minutes... [Rock piles] on one hilarious sequence after another in a barrage of hard-hitting humor that has rarely been so successfully dished out in a single film. It’s like watching a first-rate standup routine transformed into fiction, or in this case auto-fiction, as Rock has more on his mind than just making us laugh, offering up a witty celebrity satire that doubles as a love story set during one long and eventful New York City day.

  • [It's] a candid, fresh, ferociously funny snapshot of life in the celebrity bubble. After a couple of ambitious but middling first attempts (“Head of State,” “I Think I Love My Wife”), Rock has finally found a big-screen vehicle for himself that comes close to capturing the electric wit, shrewd social observations and deeply autobiographical vein of his standup comedy.

  • Rock achieves here something similar to what Louis C.K. did in the first couple of seasons of Louie approaching a stand-up routine as dramatization, and in some ways he is more radical, because C.K. had the cover of an obvious experimental small show, while Rock has to at least sustain the semblance of a mainstream narrative.

  • Sometimes working in the locked-in, long-take talk mode of Richard Linklater’s Before cycle and often trailing off into flashback tangents, it’s hit-or-miss, full of name-checks and cameos and leaden bits that abruptly burst into funny ones. Louie-esque miniatures—like an extended bit where Andre recounts a debauched, demeaning weekend in Houston in 2003—roll into bits of broad showbiz satire and lame relationship truisms lead off into raucous group improvs.

  • A lot of what’s onscreen had me rolling my eyes. Dawson is as suspect a reporter as Rock is a dramatic actor. But Rock’s wild-eyed, machete-wielding image in the fictional film’s poster means the movie, at least, knowsUprize is a joke. There’s so much here that’s so good and so funny that you can feel Rock struggling with how to give it some shape.

  • Top Five occasionally finds the firebrand comic pulling his punches: a rambling, discursive, sometimes squawkingly funny showbiz satire, it finds a bridge-burning comedian (Rock, obviously) seeking artistic redemption with a turgid black-history epic. In a sense, this is Rock’s own nervous stab at rehabilitative seriousness, even if it’s peppered with hit-and-miss jokes about celebrity vacuity, sexuality and racial perception.

  • Rock actually does a fine job when he’s nakedly scattershot – a slapstick flashback involving Cedric the Entertainer, and a hilarious prison cameo involving DMX channelling Charlie Chaplin, both slot satisfyingly into the more shaded moments. But the overall taste in Top Five is that of an overeager cook who throws in so many herbs the flavour is actually neutralised.

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