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Friday 8 May 2015, by
Chris Rock gives an updated twist to the boy-meets-girl story here, playing Andre Allen, a not-so-funny-anymore-since-getting-sober comedian, as he promotes his first serious film ’Uprize’ on its opening night to a disinterested public. Gaining attention for a movie about the largest slave uprising in the New World is almost impossible and it’s clear from Andre’s promotional rounds that no one cares about serious black films, unless they’re blaming each other for their own oppression (or killing each other for it), and that the ’business’ creates a role for actors both off and on the screen. Andre’s designated role is to be the funny black man and when he can’t do that anymore we see the effect on his confidence and ability to perform (in more ways than one, which is a delight to watch).
Meanwhile Andre is also preparing for his upcoming wedding to Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), a reality star, who’s much more famous than he is, simply for being famous. Then ’she’ comes along, New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) who’s writing a profile on Andre and is given permission to follow him around for the day. Here we find the usual rom-com scenario, so don’t go in biting your nails and wondering if he’ll marry the beautiful fiancé that got him sober or run to the ambitious reporter who helps him to believe in himself again, because we all know the answer to that. The surprise for the audience is Rock’s authentic portrayal of an actor that wants to create something that he cares about and is unsure if that lies in making films, making his relationship work or making a comeback in stand up.
It’s life imitating art because Chris Rock has come a long way since comedies like I’m Gonna Get You Sucka (1988), CB4 (1994) and Pootie Tang (2001) and is himself seeking to make some serious films and documentaries, in addition to contributing to political discourse through his interviews and Tweets. One has to wonder if he’s critiquing himself as much as his audience who, on the one hand are dissatisfied with black representation in the media, and yet support comedies and reality TV that reinforce these stereotypes.
But the best part about Top Five is that it doesn’t demand that you consider audience perception, racism in the media and black rage if you don’t want to. If you’re like love interest Chelsea, who needs a film to be just a film, with no deeper meaning, feel free to enjoy comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Leslie Jones give relationship advice and list their top fives.
Dir. Chris Rock, 2014