Andre Allen: I am telling you, everything means something.
Chelsea Brown: No everything does not mean something. Okay, sometimes a movie is just a movie. Sometimes a song is just a song. Sometimes a joke is just a joke. Remember those, jokes?
Director: Chris Rock
Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, J.B. Smoove
Synopsis: A Comedian turned actor discusses the highs and lows of his life of fame with a New York Times writer who happens to share a few things in common with him.
First off, this films title is a running motif throughout the film as various characters list their top five rappers. I’m not a hardcore rap fan however growing up my cousins would blast Tupac, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg through their speakers so I was versed in the genre from an early age. As I grew up I came to love the genre and my current top five rappers are;
1. Kanye West
4. Tupac Shakur
5. Jay Z
Probably a lot of hardcore rap fans would disagree with my list however since ‘Yeezy’ blew up in 2004 with his album ‘College Dropout’, I’ve loved all of his albums since and haven’t missed one. I’ve also been to his concert when he was out here in Melbourne and he was amazing! I believe his albums have each gotten better from 2005’s ‘Late Registration’ to 2013’s ‘Yeezus’. Also his latest track with Rihanna and Paul McCartney ‘FourFiveSeconds’ is on heavy rotation in my car and iPod. Also Eminem has been my favourite rapper since 2000’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ and was probably my number one rapper through the 2000s. However I think his latest album 2013’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’ was a disappointment and makes him drop a spot. Just like Yeezy I’ve loved Drake since his debut 2010’s ‘Thank Me Later’ to this years surprise album ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’. He may not be as prolific as Yeezy, Em and Jay but he is on heavy rotation in my car and iPod and I actually prefer him these days over Jay. However I would be remiss not to include Tupac Shakur who I grew up with and introduced me to the genre and also I love Jay’s flow. I also love a bit of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, The Notorious B.I.G., Lil Wayne, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, and when I’m working out Pitbull.
However enough about rap let’s discuss Chris Rock’s latest comedy Top Five. Top Five is Rock’s most personal film to date, dealing with a comedian turned popular comedy star who is hated by the critics and hasn’t had a good film yet. Unfortunately this is also true of Rock’s career. He is an amazing comedian, sharp, energetic, powerful and most of all hilarious. With 1996’s hit stage show Bring the Pain the first comedy show I saw of Rock I remember crying of laughter. It was brilliant and he managed to top that with 1999’s Bigger and Blacker. He returned again in 2004’s Never Scared and 2008’s Kill the Messenger. His live shows are all amazing and sadly he hasn’t been able to translate that to the screen. His two previous directorial efforts 2003’s Head of State and 2007’s I Think I Love My Wife were critical and commercial disasters. I’ve enjoyed his films however I’ve only enjoyed moments in them, I don’t think I’ve loved any from beginning to end, including the Grown Up series, Madagascar series, and his work with Kevin Smith. However I think Top Five is the reverse of his previous films where I love it from beginning to end and there are only a few moments I didn’t enjoy.
As you can see I love stand up comedy and naturally I love films that deal with this subject matter including 2009’s Funny People and Martin Scorsese’s classic 1982’s The King of Comedy. This film deals with Andre Allen (Chris Rock) who is a famous comedian turned popular actor who is about to get married to a reality star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) (shades of Kanye and Kim) while trying to be taken seriously for his new dramatic film dealing with the Haitian revolution. He agrees to an interview with New York Times writer Chelsea Brown (the luminous Rosario Dawson) to plug his film. At first he is hesitant because of the Times negative reviews of his previous films but reluctantly agrees for the press. He discovers a kindred spirit in Chelsea as they discuss the highs and lows in their lives and their shared experiences as recovering alcoholics. The film has an effortless chemistry between the two stars and they elevate the material and help it grow unlike Rock’s previous directorial efforts. However their discussions of the effects of recovering from alcohol addiction I felt didn’t ring as true as Rock’s analysis of the entertainment industry possibly because he could bring more truth to the entertainment industry rather than being a recovering addict. The film still works as a semi-autobiography and dig at the entertainment industry and what artists will do to have their art taken seriously. It is a fascinating film which also deals with topics (strong in Rock’s stage shows) such as race, politics, family and a real insight into the mind of one America’s best comedians.
With a kinetic directorial style, sharp and witty writing and excellent performances from Rock and Dawson this is the smartest comedy in years and possibly the best film dealing with a stand up comic. It also boasts an excellent supporting cast and cameos from Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, J.B. Smoove, Leslie Jones and Ben Vereen.
Rating: 4 Stars
My Top Five Chris Rock films
1. Top Five
2. New Jack City
4. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
My Top Five Comedians
1. Jerry Seinfeld
2. Chris Rock
3. Eddie Murphy
4. Kevin Hart
5. Louie C.K.