"No everything does not mean something. Okay, sometimes a movie is just a movie. Sometimes a song is just a song. Sometimes a joke is just a joke.”
Top Five is the third time that Chris Rock sits on the director’s chair, and like in his previous movies he wrote the screenplay and starred in it, but this is by far his most critically acclaimed film. It works best when it focuses on the relationship developing during the course of one day between the character he plays, Andre Allen, a Hollywood celebrity comedian who is trying to become a serious actor, and Chelsea Brown, a NY Times reporter played by Rosario Dawson who is trying to write a piece on the actor’s life. The chemistry between both actors is pretty strong and the scenes in which they both walk around the streets of NY together having honest conversations is reminiscent of Linklater’s Before trilogy and some of Woody Allen’s earlier work. That was the highlight of the film for me, but I wasn’t a fan of some of the flashbacks included in the movie, especially the one where Andre confessed the lowest point of his life to her involving a scene taking place in Houston with Cedric the Entertainer that many found hilarious, but I found extremely vulgar. The scenes taking place in the present while Andre introduced Chelsea to his family in NY were also pretty solid, with a funny cameo from Tracy Morgan as his brother.
But Top Five is also a satire of celebrity lifestyle and reality TV. There are some comparisons to Birdman, due to the fact that Andre is a famous actor known for playing the popular character of Hammy the Bear in a Blockbuster Hollywood franchise, but he is tired of simply being a funny man and wants to leave an important legacy by making serious movies. That is why now he is trying to promote his new dramatic film in which he plays a Haitian revolutionary who helps the slaves uprise against their white masters. However his fans seem more interested in his upcoming marriage with reality TV star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union). Chris Rock uses satire and clever dialogues to tackle some of these issues, but I honestly enjoyed the film more when it centered on his relationship with Chelsea and simply had the camera following the two around the city. There is a funny cameo that takes place in a prison, that Chris Rock uses effectively to state the underlying message of the film which is sticking to what you do best.
In a way this film is sort of autobiographical considering Rock hasn’t been doing anything interesting lately or nearly as engaging as his stand up routine. There are several underlying themes throughout the film (and in way at times they do feel disjointed or convoluted) but one of them is about returning to your roots and doing what you do best, which in Rock’s case is stand up comedy. This film is written in such a way that it has that similar feeling and you can imagine Rock telling these jokes in a stage. The title, Top Five, comes up often in conversations as the characters give their personal list of favorite MC’s. I honestly didn’t know half of the people they were listing so I won’t attempt to make a personal list as many have done after watching the film, but it is evident that Rock has an appreciation for hip hop and it is heavily used as a theme throughout the movie. Overall this is Rock’s best film as a director and there are several engaging and funny scenes throughout the film. Seeing Rosario Dawson and Chris Rock sharing this great chemistry together was the best part of Top Five.