Writer-director Chris Rock is almost Andre Allen, the stand-up comedian turned movie star lead of “Top Five.” Rock manages to transcend the gimmick and his larger-than-life persona to create one of the most vibrant, self-aware comedies of the year.
This is a story about Andre Allen who has become disconnected from his work and is looking for a change. He is engaged to reality TV star Erica Long (Gabriel Union) and is a recovering alcoholic. His fans are curious to know when he will do another Hammy movie, the stupid character he played or if he’ll do stand-up again and less interested in his new movie, “Uprize”, in which he portrays a prominent figure during the Haitian Revolution.
Things really get going when Andre hooks up with Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), a quick-witted New York Times reporter who has gotten the tony assignment to follow him around for an entire day. He resists, since the paper’s movie critic James Neilson has historically eviscerated his movies, but his agent (Kevin Hart) convinces him to go anyway. Chelsea’s a fan, he thinks.
Andre and Chelsea stop at the apartment of some of Andre’s old friends and his ex-girlfriend in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy. Chelsea interviews each of them individually, learning Andre’s ex regrets breaking up with him after seeing how famous he got. The other friends say Andre wasn’t really funny when he started off in stand-up and isn’t really that funny now. The group sits together and chats about their top five favorite rappers, though they include a 6th one in their line-ups as well.
The film’s title comes from Andre’s conversation-starter of asking friends and strangers alike who their top five rappers are.
While it centers on Allen’s desire to be taken seriously and get away from the work he has been known for, it’s simultaneously about Rock’s attempt to be taken seriously as a director and auteur who makes nuanced films that don’t conform to expectation.
The film was shot all in New York which captures the beauty and realness of Big Apple as a busy vision of that city at its best.
Andre asks Chelsea to use her phone to make a call since his phone died. As he goes through the phone, he sees Chelsea gets an e-mail from her editor, asking when she’ll send the next James Nielson review; revealing James Nielson is Chelsea herself. The truth devastates Andre. He gives Chelsea her phone and is angry with her for lying to him. He admits to her he felt he was never funny unless he was drunk or high, and now he’s transitioning, it scares him. He leaves Chelsea……
”Top Five” is super funny but it is not just a slapstick, a romantic comedy, a realistic psychological journey and an over-the top farce. This may be Chris Rock’s biggest and boldest film ever as a director and writer.