Top Five Review: Chris Rock’s Exciting New Direction

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Bet you never thought Chris Rock would be used in the same sentence as Woody Allen. Well, there it is, because Top Five is a self-referential, city loving, romantic comedy that’ll leave you with a silly grin on your face throughout the credits.

As the first memorable film he’s directed, Top Five feels like Rock is embarking on a new career path, all while sort of urging himself not to forget the path that got him there.

He plays a fictional version of himself, Andre Allen, who, thanks to the release of his first serious movie, is getting a New York Times profile. Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) is writing the piece, spending an entire day with this superstar to represent him best to her readers.

The film opens in the middle of this, with the two walking in the West Village debating the forward progress of racial relations. The implications of Planet of the Apes come up, leading to Andre failing to prove a point about black men being unable to hail a cab in New York City, just as one stops right in front of him.

Rock, whose last live-action role in a film was Grown Ups 2, is clearly trying to do something not only different, but also important. With the film taking place all in one day, we see the strains Andre puts himself through with his future marriage to a reality TV star and the disappointment of his new film. Through the interview, Chelsea gets to ask him the hard questions about his life, challenging him in ways he hadn’t been allowing beforehand.

But Chelsea’s life is hardly perfect either. A single mother with an estranged boyfriend, she shares with Andre a little gold coin that marks four years of sobriety. Dawson plays off of Rock perfectly, avoiding the “cool girl” tropes that tend to plague these types of films.

That said, some of the lessons they teach each other over the course of the day seem a little obvious. The way Andre’s fiancee treats him should have been a red flag for years. It borders on cliche how wrong she is for him.

But then the ending is just so perfect. Rock doesn’t overdo it, rounding off Andre’s arc incredibly well. It’s the type of ending that turns a good movie into a great one. Unlike Andre’s first serious role, Rock has made a film that will surely change the way he’s seen in the public eye. Top Five showcases an artist spreading his wings. If his next few films are of this quality, he may just soar. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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