I must admit I’ve never seen Chris Rock’s standup. I would claim ignorance, having grown up in a culture that was very white as well as sheltered from all things raunchy. I didn’t even know what standup comedy was until college. This isn’t a blemish on how I was raised, merely a statement of fact. That said, it is a shame that my only exposure to Chris Rock before Top Five was him hosting the Oscars in 2005. While he showed spurts of his furious humor, it was a mostly lackluster performance and not really his scene anyway.
I shouldn’t say the 2005 Oscars were my only experience with Chris Rock; I saw Head of State when I was in 8th grade. But if you’ve seen Head of State, you know why I would only mention the Oscars. This makes Top Five the de facto best Chris Rock movie. I don’t mean that to be faint praise at all though. Top Five is a legitimately wonderful movie, full of delightful conversations and winning romance. Chris Rock has said himself that his taste veers toward the “arty”, and you can tell. Sometimes Top Five meanders with the grace of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, and other times it jump cuts through a scene with the precision of Woody Allen’s best.
Chris Rock’s character, Andre Allen, can only be a fictional version of himself. He’s a world-famous comedian trying to turn his career around after a string of embarrassing movies. On the eve of his newest attempt at legitimacy, a New York Times reporter (Rosario Dawson) spends the day and night with him for a piece. There are some wonky plot twists involving Dawson’s character that hardly belong in this movie, as well as some unnecessarily raunchy flashbacks that mess with the movie’s overall tone. Even with these missteps, Top Five manages to hold its head above water as one of the best comedies of the year, and a rousing success for Rock, Dawson, and everyone involved.