Chris Rock gets introspective and meta in this heartfelt comedy.
Many films have tackled the idea of celebrity, probing into the concept of what happens when you try to change up your routine, we only need to look at Birdman to see a comparative story line to what Chris Rock gives us in Top Five. The difference may be the ample dosage of heart, likeability and humour that the story is able to present us here.
Top Five gives us a window into the life of Andre Allen, a wildly successful comedian adored by the masses but monstered by critics who looks to take his film career on a serious path by making a film about a bloody Haitian rebellion. What we see is Allen dodge his way through the media junket for the film while also preparing for his marriage to a prominent reality tv star and being trailed by Time reporter Chelsea Brown for a tell all story about his life.
Its the interplay between Allen and Brown that forms the backbone of the narrative process, flashing back to defining moments as he slowly unpacks who he is, was and wants to be as a celebrity, performer and human being. Along the way we get introduced to an array of colourful characters from promoters, family members, media and celebrity cameos that give the film realism as well as surrealism (I’ve never seen Jerry Seinfeld make it rain before).
Chris Rock plays Chris Rock, the same confident comedian persona is on display here but he also laces in a vulnerability that gives us a cleaner look at the struggles many in his position may experience. Rosario Dawson is similarly endearing and believable, always warm and likable she plays the perfect therapist to Rock before we see her own demons surface. The interplay of the two is well balanced and delightful, the supporting cast is thick with Rock’s friends, helping to provide much of the humour in what could otherwise be a sombre and self analytical affair.
The plot here is fairly uninspired, we have seen it before and it makes no real new revelations about the ill effects or nature of celebrity. We know that addiction, dual faces and a zoo like fascination are all part and parcel of the experience. Top Five could fall into a trap here of just playing to stereotypes but its the comedy and heart that allows it to escape repetition. We are given a heartwarming urbanised Cinderella story, comical capers, longing looks and dense wordplay. Rock’s hypothesis of Martin Luther Kings murder being linked with Planet of the Apes could be worth the price of admission alone.
Top Five is closer to Louie than Birdman in tone but thats what it needs to be. Its a bit tongue in cheek, its a bit derivative but its fun and brought a smile to this amatuer critics face. Its a drama hidden in a comedy, wrapped up in romance.