Top Five (2014)

Poster for Top Five

Chris Rock’s new film has a surprising amount in common with Birdman. Rock plays Andre Allen, a former stand-up comedian and action film star who has been trying to move into more serious artistic territory, just like the protagonist of Birdman.  The story is set in New York City and is a valentine to the city, just like Birdman, and it has a similar slice of life feeling as it follows Allen through the course of day during which he promotes his new movie and prepares for his upcoming wedding to a reality TV star. It has a similar jazzy, improv quality to it. That said, Top Five is a completely different genre than Birdman. Top Five is a romantic comedy, and while it has some serious thoughts on its mind, it feels much more like a lark. It’s more of a feel-good movie, in contrast to Birdman‘s acidic satire.

Rock’s co-star and love interest in the film is Rosario Dawson, who is an incredibly attractive woman playing an interesting character. Chelsea Brown is her real name, but we learn that she has a number of secret identities as a writer. The structure of the film, to the extent that it has one, is a day-long interview she conducts with Andre in her role as a NY Times writer. It’s a romance, so the two characters gradually open up to each other and get closer. Both are recovering alcoholics who are in “the program” (presumably AA), and so they have a commitment to unsparing honesty about their flaws. The film’s most serious aspect is exploring these flaws and the strange life experiences they’ve led to. Some of this is played for laughs too.

At times it felt a bit slack, but it could be that I’m just not a huge fan of romantic comedies. (I saw the film because I like Chris Rock and thought the trailer was great.) The two leads are extraordinarily appealing, and it’s fun to hang out with them as they spar and meld. There are interesting tidbits about life in the business, and there are cameos aplenty by famous comedians, giving the film a family feeling. Not too family, however. It’s also a very raunchy movie, with lots of off-color language and jokes and a fair amount of sex — some of it fairly nasty, in a painfully hilarious kind of way. The laughs aren’t constant, but they’re good laughs when they come. It’s all very predictable, but it’s sweet that way. A very nice piece of entertainment, and Rosario Dawson was a revelation to me. A great role for her.

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