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TOP FIVE Rigorous Honesty

Top Five

Directed by Chris Rock

Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union

 

For his third outing as a director, comedian Chris Rock presents a funny and touching look at the price of fame that borders on the autobiographical in Top Five.

Comedic actor Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is struggling with his life. Since gaining sobriety he is wondering if he is relevant in Hollywood any more, or even funny. His latest movie is bordering on critical and commercial failure, his love life is completely subsumed by his fiancee’s reality TV show, and the public only recognises him for his previous film role as Hammy the Bear (a wise-cracking gun-toting cop in a bear costume). In an attempt to arrest his career’s free-fall , Allen agrees to allow a journalist, Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), to spend the day with him, despite her publication’s film reviewer being Allen’s harshest critic. What eventuates is a series of revelations from both sides as they find connections in their work, their family life, their personal life, and the 12 step program.

The obvious recent comparison point is Birdman and it is neither unwarranted or unflattering. Both cover similar thematic ground; an actor struggling with his own relevancy and sobriety, both haunted by a past success that they wish to disassociate themselves from. Each shows the downside of fame, and the price on the other side of the velvet rope. Where Top Five differs is in the nature of the principal character, the lighter, more comedic approach, the significance of his relationship with the press (specifically Chelsea Brown- allowing for some great chemistry between Rock and Dawson) and, of course, the issue of race.

Rock’s comedic prowess is used to great effect here. In general it is downplayed, rarely hitting the manic heights of some of his previous efforts, but Top Five is for the better. Instead he is often more reflective and even self-deprecating, allowing others to take the big laughs. The result feels much more genuine and insightful. Rock as a scriptwriter is definitely sticking to that old adage of writing what you know, and it allows for a wide range of comedic styles and talent to be showcased, be it from an amazing African American cast or some rather surprising (and glorious) cameos from comedic icons. Even the two incidents of gross-out humour on display here are used to further the understanding of character rather than just cheap laughs. They not only presenting a wonderfully cathartic moment for the audience, but also demonstrating low points in the character’s lives. Mostly Top Five is interested in keeping its humour pitched towards the wry end of the spectrum, allowing the dramatic and the comedic to mix in a harmonious fashion.

Thoughtful, honest, and amusing, Top Five really knows how to work a room.

 

DAVID O’CONNELL

 

 

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