Chris Rock shows off his inescapable charisma with his portrayal of Andre Allen, a world famous comedian trying to be taken seriously as an actor. With Andre’s upcoming marriage to reality star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) fast approaching, he comes across Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), a reporter with a lot to ask.
Top Five utilises the tried and tested formula of many modern day comedies. Take a flawed but likeable protagonist, put him in a difficult position, throw in a spicy love story and watch the chaos unfold. Despite having all of these elements, Top Five feels fresh, realistic and is packed full of laughs.
Also written by Rock as well as his third feature in directorial command, the film has a lot to say about the entertainment industry, and who better to be the star and at the helm of such a story than one of the most celebrated figures in comedy of this century.
Throughout the course of this surprisingly wonderful and intelligent comedy, the characters are asked to state their “top five” favourite rappers of all time. It seems fitting then to channel this review through offering the “top five” reasons Top Five is a top film:
1. Many, Many, Standout Comedic Moments
There are so many memorable moments that are sure to encourage laughter, cringing and not to mention an excellent stand-up performance from Chris Rock himself, delivered through protagonist Andre. Top Five hits hard with the comedy but knows when to get serious again, thus providing a well-balanced entertaining story in one of the funniest comedies of 2015 so far, having already been hailed as one of the better of 2014 after its US release last year.
2. Intelligent Comedy
Fame over talent, public demand for sequels, substance abuse and recovery are just some of the topics that Top Five explores with realism and a refreshing amount of intellect. There are certainly some subtle fourth wall breaks here that feel similar to that of Birdman, as Rock successfully reaches out to his audience via humourous commentary on these issues, such as the exaggerated films Andre has appeared in which play for laughs but also challenge the status quo of Hollywood production.
3. A Realistic Love Story Without the Clichés
Too often a Hollywood love story is boiled down to attractive character, A, meeting attractive character, B, both of whom are on this crazy journey together that results in them skipping off into the sunset together. Top Five has far more respect for the audience/consumer intelligentsia than this, opting instead to let the chemistry of the two leads drive their relationship rather than the circumstance.
This is pulled off by the excellent, enchanting charisma shared between Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson, with dialogue that feels so natural; they are just two people conversing. There is no sunset in sight here; their growing relationship is messy, it doesn’t seem to work, and the two receive an alarming wake-up call on what any sort of partnership between them could mean. It adds an excellent level of depth to the characters and their journey, rather than feeling like unnecessary baggage.
4. Unexpected Character Depth
While the story is certainly engineered to create the maximum amount of empathy for Andre, it is the “antagonist” Erica (Gabrielle Union) who sheds some light on the actuality of being a reality television star which deepens her role as more than simply an obstacle for Andre to overcome.
With just a single line of dialogue, Erica gives more intensity and realness to her character than one could have expected. This further adds to the sheer quality of Chris Rock’s script; there are no formulaic and predictable good guys or bad guys, but instead everyone has their motivations and reasons for acting a certain way, and it makes for an intriguing watch and exploration of characters.
5. The Ending
The ending of any film is always important; it is the last memory that an audience will have of the movie, and can really make or break their experience. Although the conclusion here is sure to divide a few people, personally, the ending tied everything up in a pleasantly poetic manner that left me smiling when the curtains came down.
Unfortunately these five reasons are ultimately let down by how the film is shot. Top Five feels as though it has been visually arranged by two different, incompatible styles. On the one hand, we have the traditional expectations of fast cutting comedy, while a documentarian seems to have interfered at times with the overall cinematographic feel of the film, as it often makes departures from feature film conventions in such a ways that is jarring. Combine this with the camera losing focus a few times where it seems it should not and it doesn’t make for the best cinematic experience despite the strong story and performances.
Top Five feels fresh, realistic and is packed full of laughs
These problems would be less troublesome on a smaller screen, but their blatancy is unfortunately unavoidable when watching the film theatrically, and so it may be wise to wait for the DVD release of the movie instead to circumvent this. Either way, Top Five is certainly one of the funniest comedies of the year so far and is well worth checking out. Whichever medium that is through, is up to you.
Writer and Editor for the Film & TV section of Impact, Bharat is a keen previewer, reviewer and sometimes just viewer, of all things cinematic and televisual, with a particular passion for biographical pictures, adaptations and sitcoms.