This must be the year for film to be searching into the “real” side of the actor as he tries to work his way back into the limelight? Maybe it seems too directly close to Birdman or Chef, but regardless, I kind of like that it is happening and it opens up a lot about these personalities behind them whether they are Michael Keaton, Jon Favreau or the subject of the latest installment, Chris Rock.
Rock brings us Top Five, his third feature film, which is a tale of a famous comedian who is looking to be taken seriously, but can’t find the right formula to make that happen. As he promotes his first serious work, he is interviewed by Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) from The New York Times as she tries to figure out the real reason that Rock’s character Andre Allen lost his funny or if it was never there in the first place.
Allen was on top and his string of hit movies (called Hammy the Bear) made him an instant celebrity while his stand-up was what got him into the situation in the first place. Now, he is trying to be taken seriously by doing a serious drama while his Bravo network wedding with celebrity star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) is what people are getting more coverage of.
The story works well and this look into the mind of a celebrity trying to find his groove again, or a new groove entirely, is interesting. Yes, the thoughts that maybe the fame and money should be enough for someone creep in, but Top Five works enough heart into it (and a helping of family) that it shows that more is out there and you can kind of feel bad for the people like Allen that are just trying to find some solace in “true art.”
While I can buy Allen’s journey and I heavily enjoyed the character that Dawson constructed with Chelsea Brown (loved that she could exude both a sex appeal, but also was wickedly smart), but sometimes it felt like the movie lost sight of the true discovery (which was with Allen) and started to detour into the romance between Allen and Brown.
It wasn’t bad, and after awhile I genuinely wanted to see Brown and Allen together, but the focus on this relationship seemed contrived and not the overall goal that Allen was seeking. Yes, he wanted to be with Chelsea and he was relived (for a bit) from his search for solace when he did a stand-up routine at the New York Comedy Cellar, but it never felt like he truly found what he desired.
Also brought to my attention by reading my friend Andrew Swafford’s Letterboxd review of the film was the sub-plot about Allen and his fiancee Erica and the Bravo coverage of this wedding. Andrew brought up the point that Kanye West was a producer on the film and that his wife, Kim Kardashian, is probably the poster child for this type of reality show.
I agree with Andrew’s point that the film does a great job of giving us the ability to empathize with Erica (or Kardashian) as in the end they are still people, and while they have no skills as Erica points out to Allen, they still are people. But it also feels like we should side with her and that’s tough to do. Yes, you want to be famous and it will keep your life important (in your mind) and visible, but that doesn’t mean that she is ever right and I should feel bad for her because Andre may be leaving her.
Overall, Top Five was a solid effort from Rock and was wickedly funny. The points that it brings up have some validity and the empathy the film finds for its characters works. While I can’t get behind everyone 100%, I also found that these stories of self-discovery with celebrities are working well this year and hope that maybe the trend can continue.