Top Five

“The first scene in Chris Rock’s entertaining Top Five finds his character – a worried comedic actor – walking along a Manhattan street with newspaper writer Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). She engages and challenges him as they go back and forth on the issue of racial tolerance in the United States. The conversation is quick, humorous and flirtatious. “People are changing,” she says. “Nothing’s changed,” he says.

“To illustrate his point, Rock’s Andre Allen attempts to hail a taxi, figuring a black man in New York has no chance of getting a cabbie to pick him up. Andre is smug when the first taxi whizzes by, but his smile disappears when the second one stops. Maybe people are changing. And maybe Rock, who wrote and directed Top Five, has elevated his game, as evidenced by a Woody Allen-worthy scene to start off a fluidly sequenced romantic comedy that has its great moments of romp, raunch and joke-filled dialogue.

“In Top Five, Rock hasn’t exactly branched out as a thespian, he’s still a comic actor playing a comic actor, fairly straight-up. But the direction is strong, keeping a script overloaded with themes – a Cinderella story, hard-won sobriety, a satirical look at celebrity TV and a famous person’s relationship with the friends and family he left behind – moving along spryly.

“Rock’s Andre is an alcoholic who’s been sober for four years. He’s given up stand-up because he’s unsure he can be funny while being straight. Tired of the silliness, he wants to make a “serious” movie, and manages to come up with a stinker called Uprize, a Haitian slave-revolt epic. Top Five is a day in the life of a movie star as he makes the press-junket rounds in New York. Accompanying him is Dawson’s New York Times profile writer.

“Dawson’s Chelsea Brown, also four years sober, is a single mother looking for her prince. Could it be Andre? There are sparks, but Andre is wrapped up in a looming marriage with a reality-television star played by Gabrielle Union.
“Top Five finds Rock in an elevated form, at 49. Things change, sometimes for the better.” - Brad Wheeler, Globe & Mail


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