“If you don’t have an audience it is hard to put on a show.”
Dylan, Dylan Dylan, Dylan, Dylan? That video may be funny, but for Andre Allen (Chris Rock) in Top Five, funny isn’t what he wants to be anymore. Allen was once a man known as “The Funniest Man in America,” and near the top of the movie business for “Hammy”, a punchline-dropping police officer grizzly bear. Even if the critics derided his efforts, he’s living pretty large via multiple sequels.
Living large does have its consequences though. In those moneymaking years, Andre has picked up a vice or two and has really just started to put the pieces back together thanks to his new, reality TV star & socialite fiance Erica Long (Gabrielle Union). As he has become clean, Allen also aspires to do more serious work. When reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) uncovers more of Allen’s story for a magazine interview, it becomes clear that Allen is much more than a few funny lines.
Sometimes trailers do not do a movie justice. Shocking statement, right? To yours truly, Top Five is one of those movies. Upon watching the trailer, it didn’t seem to have as much clarity as to what “T5” is about. To yours truly at least, while it featured some funny bits and accomplished comedians, there was some trepidation as to whether this was just a stretched and even non-existent screenplay with overly loud and cringe-worthy characters. Luckily, those fears were alleviated.
Top Five is top quality. It is first and foremost a comedy, featuring many uproarious, racy, and raunchy lines of dialogue in a dialogue-driven film. However, there are some very big and bold moments revealed in flashbacks that break up the talkative moments and may serve up the largest laughs. These did seem to run a little long, but this may be a personal belief. To spoil other reveals would be a travesty. While primarily a comedy, to label it sorely as such is to overlook what else it does well.
Just like how Rock’s character here mentions that he has so much more to offer than just comedy, so does this. There are layers present here that go deeper than just some guys clowning around, though that does exist in spots. About the only stumble that occurs within the screenplay is the introduction of a subplot with a key character that seems to be important, but upon further review, especially as the character goes through another reveal, it could have easily been removed without missing a beat. Putting on a triple threat hat here, Chris Rock not only stars, but pens and directs a film that combines its comedy with some real smarts and analysis as to what defines someone, personal perception v.s. public perception, the rigors of fame, and more.
Honestly, it is reminiscent to Birdman in many respects, with the only sizable differences being that the aforementioned movie is a little more surreal and features more directorial flair, whereas Top Five is more grounded and realistic, with a lot more (too much N****s in Paris!) background music from Kanye West and Jay-Z, both respective producers here. Rock has gone on record saying the aim was to capture a documentary feel, which is present. Aside from these contrasts, the parallels between the two are mind-blowing.
As Andre Allen, Chris Rock submits his best performance to date. He moves the story forward with his narration (he is giving an interview after all), which gives the character a high level of connectivity without it feeling expository or self-important. When he needs to be subdued and somber, he is able to do so. His counterpart’s performance in Rosario Dawson deserves much praise as well. She has this look in her eyes that almost make it seem like she isn’t acting, possessing a very strong chemistry with Rock that is needed as many scenes depend on the two’s chemistry.
Featuring an ensemble cast from Tracy Morgan to Gabrielle Union down to Kevin Hart and others, T5 gives each a moment or two to shine while simultaneously boosting Andre’s told story. Even if they are minor, they all play a part in who Andre is and who is he is trying to become.
Proving the 3rd time is the charm with acting, writing, and directing in a singular film, Chris Rock does a stand-up, celebratory job in Top Five. It should probably hold down a spot easily as a 2014 top 5 comedy, but the real surprise could be it holding down a 2014 top 5 overall film spot.
Photo credits go to eurweb.com, screenrant.com, and youtube.com.
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