Take a Sip: every time someone asks about the wedding
Take a Sip: every time Chelsea or Andre are tempted to drink
Take a Sip: for every mention of Cinderella.
Take a Sip: every time someone dishes out their top five.
Do a Shot: any time hot sauce is shown.
By: The Cinephiliac (A Toast) –
These days it’s rare for a Hollywood film to make you howl in laughter, cringe in disgust, but then tear up and awww in sentimentality. For such a film to even prompt a meaningful and active thought process while watching is even more a rarity. But, Chris Rock’s debut as writer and director dips into a romcom territory while delivering all of the aforementioned results, proving that Rock is more than a handful of witty jokes and remarks and is in fact a serious actor and even better writer and director. Top Five embodies everything fans of Rock adores about him: his brash humor, his unapologetic view on politics, his social criticisms, and his open observation all through the character Andre Allen.
It has been four years since actor Andre Allen hit rock bottom from after a day of drinking lands him in jail. A once hilarious superstar whose comedy franchise Hammy the Bear grossed a staggering 600 million dollars is now done with comedy. Andre now wants audiences to take him seriously, which is why finds himself on a grueling press junket on opening day of the new political biography film he has written and directed about a Haitian revelation. While on his junket Andre is convinced to do an interview with The New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). Though jaded by the prospect of being torn apart by yet another reporter, Andre and Chelsea embark on a path of bonding that questions both of their career choices and life’s decisions.
So be real Andre, aren’t you just mimicking Martin Lawrence’s career?
Top Five is a sensationally sweet film mixed with salty, crude moments of brilliant humor. I absolutely adored it, as did the brood of older women who filled out the half-empty rows of seats around the theater. When the women weren’t being complete sores in my ass by cackling in laughter then explaining jokes and thoughts to each other and loudly expressing their shock in certain scenes, everyone in the theater reacted generally the same. Cackles of laughter and stomping of feet feel way better in the presence of the others than alone at home, which is another reason Top Five was so enjoyable. It’s Rock, doing what he does best- Being Chris Rock- and that alone is enough reason to adore Top Five.
Rock shows off his impressive eye for detail along with his ability to capture typical human qualities through his screenplay. During group scenes of Andre with his family, the camera is tight and close to the subjects it’s scrutinizing, forcing us to feel the energy and emotion of scenes. Characters crack jokes and insults at one another in a tiny apartment as we watch spit fly from lips and sweat pour down faces, making these moments realistically relatable and making me want to experience it firsthand.
It’s a family affair.
Rock contrasts these homey type scenes with stylized moments of glamour and high-key lighting whenever his fiancé, Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) is the focus. She is shown mostly always from the perspective of her reality show first before the film itself puts her into view. Rock also uses this method of toying with aesthetics during flashbacks. One of the film’s most hilarious scenes, in which Andre describes in detail his rock bottom moment, is bathed in fluorescent, washed-out lighting that feels cold and harsh as he reflects on his darker days.
There are times when Top Five feels like a Richard Linklater film, in which characters speak so effortlessly and comfortably with one another that it feels improvised or documentary-like. This is a testament to the talent of each actor featured within in the film. Nearly every single cameo and character that graces the screen gives something wonderful and funny to the film and the script balances each person’s role within the story. Everyone gives just enough about themselves to make sense within the grand scheme of Andre’s life and every comedian pulls their weight by delivering intense portrayals or hilarious moments for the few moments they are featured. Rosario does a phenomenal job portraying the role of a worldly, intelligent writer with a few secrets and insightful musings who is just attempting to raise her daughter well and make a name for herself.
Alright, top five favorite Billy Wilder films. GO!
Top Five is a great film that tackles many topics and ideas all under the umbrella of romantic comedy tropes. Top Five possesses a burning social commentary on the way we view and break apart those who we seen on screen. As a critic I was even put in a place of self-assessment and doubt when Andre revels how the brutal jabs that were handed to him by a popular New York Times film critic affected his own self-esteem. Rock finds ways to humanize even the most superficial of characters in the film, his fiancée for one, and gives a heart and genuine care to those all around him. Top Five is one of the best films to come out this year and I hope it soon gets the glory that it deserves.
For Funsies my Top Five:
- Biggie Smalls
- Lauryn Hill
- Mos Def
- Missy Elliott