Top Five

Top Five

In Theatres: 
Dec 12, 2014
Running Time: 
102 minutes

Andre Allen is a nightmare version of Chris Rock if he’d been less lucky (not less hardworking) in his career. Allen is a recovering alcoholic who has been pigeonholed by his appearances in insanely goofy comedic flicks as a bear who is half of a cop duo.  Sobered up and engaged to a housewives reality star, Allen seeks a more serious role and releases his own historical film. Reception is tepid, reviews aren’t positive, and the release isn’t wide.  Eager to create some word of mouth buzz to buoy ticket sales, Allen’s agent (Kevin Heart) begs him to do an interview with Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) of The New York Times.  Allen staunchly refuses quoting verbatim a searingly negative quote from the paper’s film critic. However, when Brown shows up at his car her earnest and unjudgemental vibe takes his edge off and Allen eventually concedes.

Strolling through New York, they visit all of Allen’s old haunts and new intentions (Hm, Allen? Like, Woody Allen? A definite influence here!). The complicated threads and issues that create the tapestry of Allen’s form past and colors his current decisions are laid bare before Brown. From tip to tail, Top Five, is about conversations between friends and how those chats can help you uncover yourself. The introspection unfurls in a way a reporter can only dream of. However, what they find is that this honesty works both ways.

The dialogue between Top Five is some of the best, most natural sounding scripting I’ve ever heard. There are various points throughout that you will forget you’re watching a film with a script and could easily mistake it for a documentary. This is particularly easy when you stuff scenes with pro improv comedians like Sherri Sheppard, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Cedric The Entertainer, Michael Che, and Whoopi Goldberg; just to name a few.

Top Five weakens a bit as we take a dive into Brown’s past and it tries some clumsy physical comedy with a story you could swear you’ve heard through the grapevine a couple of decades ago. Moreover,  Allen’s fiance, Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), feels more like an after thought instead of a real obstacle in the way of the chemistry building between Allen and Brown.

Various forms of fame and what trying to sustain that fame can do to a person is among the many things Top Five wants to discuss. However, Long only shows up in phone conversations and the distance makes for a disconnection.  And While Brown declares that “sometimes a film is just a film” (an odd position for a journalist to take) the false rape claim made by two unscrupulous characters dried my laughter right up.

Rock’s growing confidence as a writer and director shines throughout Top Five. He takes risks on writing unexpected romance and largely accomplishes all he sets out to do. The chemistry between Brown and Allen makes sense. Even though there’s a bit of trope involved, things still feel natural. Top Five is hysterical, tears-run-down-your-face-funny comedy that explores self, friendship, love, and culture with an excellent cast. It is a welcome and refreshing change from the bromedies of recent years.

Maria Jackson
Review by Maria Jackson
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