Top Five (2014)
Top Five is an entertaining comedy/drama with laugh-out-loud moments, thought-provoking subject matter, and relatable human drama.
In Top Five, Andre Allen (Chris Rock) visits New York City to do press for his new movie UPRIZE. At the beginning of the day, he meets reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), who is tasked with interviewing him for the New York Times. Chelsea follows Andre throughout his day, asking him questions about his personal life and his views on the world. When Andre first meets Chelsea, he sees her as just another journalist who wants to trash his movies. But, when they begin to go about their day, Andre learns more about himself and begins to find the roots that inspired him to start his career.
Meanwhile, Andre’s fiancé Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), a reality TV star, facilitates the preparations for the overblown, expensive wedding that is planned in the next couple of days. Erica has a film crew following her every move throughout the process. As Erica prepares for her wedding, she seems more excited about the event, than marrying Andre. Andre must deal with her ludicrous demands while doing press for his movie. As he does more interviews, he discovers that people are more interested in his old role “Hammy the Bear” than his newer movies. Frustrated with people focusing on his older roles and not taking him seriously, Andre tries to prove to them and himself that he has more to offer. Will Andre gain the respect he wants people to give him or will people continue to look at him as just “Hammy the Bear?”
Written and directed by Chris Rock, Top Five is arguably Rock’s best feature in his filmography. The writer/director has helmed movies Head of State (2003), and I Think I Love My Wife (2007). While these movies may have garnered a small following, it is Top Five that stands out among the bunch. With Top Five, Rock paints a satirical look at Hollywood and Reality Television. He examines how actors may be just remembered for their one pivotal role, such as blockbuster or superhero actors who star in negatively-criticized movies that make hundreds of millions of dollars. Additionally, he takes a jab at reality television stars, satirizing the attitudes and the money-focused ambitions associated with these stars. With these examinations placed under a microscope, Rock paints a great picture of how the entertainment industries function and where their problems lie. For those wondering if this Chris Rock movie is going to be funny and engaging, don’t worry. Rock provides viewers with his most thought-provoking film to date.
The marketing team behind Top Five advertises the movie as a straight up comedy. Upon viewing, the movie comes off more as a comedy-drama than a regular comedy. The first twenty minutes give enough background of Andre and his frustrations with his career—he doesn’t want to do funny movie roles and only wants to do more serious roles. While this setup lacks humor, it is important to the film because it provides viewers with information they need to know for later events. Once the humor hits, the movie moves forward at a brisk pace, with dramatic moments added in between. That said, viewers may be turned off by what Top Five offers. Viewers expecting a broad comedy may be disappointed by the film’s proceedings; however, viewers who are open-minded to see a film with equal dramatic subject matter and levity may be thoroughly entertained by Top Five.
Chris Rock, as a director, proves that he is a unique voice in the filmmaking community. He directs scenes that capture the many great facets of New York City: park, subway, comedy cellar. He also pulls back a little to allow his roster of talented actors to shine in the roles they’re in. Supporting actors Tracy Morgan, Leslie Jones, Kevin Hart, and J.B. Smoove inhabit their roles and play them with skill, respectively. Notable celebs also pop in for brief appearances. Their presence complements and adds humor to the scene, instead of interrupting the flow of the film. That said, some scenes would have flowed better if they were slightly shortened. Despite this minor hiccup, Top Five moves at a very good pace and manages to keep viewers engaged throughout the journey.
Chris Rock not only proves that he’s a good director, but he also proves that he’s a good actor. In Top Five, Rock gives his most nuanced performance yet. So many scenes call for Rock to convey an array of emotions, and he succeeds on this front. As Andre, Rock is unhappy, but motivated; dissatisfied, but hopeful; slightly obnoxious, but considerate. If any viewer was ever concerned with Rock’s acting abilities, don’t fret, he’s a revelation in this movie.
Rosario Dawson provides a good performance as Chelsea Brown. Chelsea serves as the foil to Rock’s Andre. Whenever Andre speaks negatively about an important topic in the world, Chelsea contends with him about his views, which reveal interesting facts about herself as a person. These arguments create good banter between the two. It is clear, like in other movies that came before it, that opposites attract and these two people certainly do. Chelsea isn’t just a one-note romantic lead. She plays an integral part to Andre’s development in the later run. Top Five is better and more interesting because of her inclusion.
With Chris Rock in front and behind the camera, he brings viewers his most entertaining movie to date. Top Five is an entertaining comedy/drama with laugh-out-loud moments, thought-provoking subject matter, and relatable human drama.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
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