Top Five Review

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Director/writer/star Chris Rock is back in front of (and behind) the cameras and he’s better than ever in Top Five, a part comedy, part drama about a fading star in Hollywood that’s battling many things, including a marriage, alcohol addiction and a career change. Here, Rock is at the top of his game, wearing all of the hats and carrying the film with an impressive amount of on and off-screen talent. Top Five isn’t just one of the better comedies of the year — it’s the single most genuinely funny film of 2014.

Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is a standup comedian turned comedic actor. He’s famous and popular and also slowly drifting out of the spotlight and starting to worry about what’s next and if he has what it takes to continue a successful career in Hollywood. Now, he’s attempting a shot at serious films, doing whatever he can to distant himself from a comedic character that’s stuck with him, despite his general hatred for it, but things have proven to be far more difficult, with a wedding approaching and the realization that his career tended to blossom whenever he was abusing alcohol or other substances.

Enter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), an interviewer looking to get an honest piece on Andre as a man and not so much Andre as the funny-turned-serious actor. She’s less interested in asking him about his new movie opening and more so focused on why he’s became substantially less funny over the years and generally less and less relevant as he attempts to switch gears and become a new man. Andre takes an odd interest in Chelsea and allows her to follow him around and learn his story, from his bizarre beginnings all the way the way to present day, with the occasional back story thrown in for good measures.

Top Five is by far Chris Rock‘s most important statement as a filmmaker and his best role in well over a decade. Rock has always been a funny man, but he’s never been a particularly good funny man when it comes to big movies. Most of his success came from his standup comedy work, with the occasional film thrown in to keep his name out there. He’s never been a must-watch, but he’s always been entertaining and funny.

Now, he’s dialing it down and peeling back a few layers, revealing an interesting look at what it takes to make it big in Hollywood doing what he does. In many ways Top Five is a slight reflection of Rock’s own career, if not more a reflection of some of his close comedic friends and the way Rock approaches it is genuinely funny and almost always a little crazy.

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Rock leads the film with a performance that feels truthful, honest and open to just about anything when it comes to learning about the acting business and what a star really goes through. He’s joined by Rosario Dawson, lending the film a performance that’s just as open and honest, if not slightly more revealing as things progress forward. Watching the two slowly get closer and closer helps give the film a unique amount of emotion and depth, which balances with the comedy very well, while even sometimes enhancing it. Dawson can be just as funny as Rock at times, if not more funny.

The rest of the cast is scattered with a bunch of known stars getting varying screen time. I won’t spoil much about the cameos, but I will say that Adam Sandler gives his best performance in years, even if it’s merely minutes long. It’s sad, depressing, and incredibly hilarious and hints at the idea of Sandler still being able to deliver comedy that’s actually funny, if only he was still interested in doing that sort of thing.

The rest of the film works well because of Rock’s ability as a filmmaker to balance the comedy and the drama without dipping too far into either genre. Sure, he leans more towards the comedic angle, but the film’s funniest moments are often followed by some of the most dramatic. Rock has a way about him that helps reveal some of life’s saddest or most depressing moments through the means of raw and unfiltered comedy and that’s a talent that not most comedians these days know how to handle as well as he does.

Top Five might not have the most original story or the funniest of lines, but it picks and chooses its shots and it does so to ensure the longest (and hardest) belly laughs. And it’s not afraid to get up close and personal and focus in on something a little more serious. Rock keeps it from ever becoming a downer, constantly throwing all sorts of jokes at the screen that are sure to offend someone at some point and that’s great, because Rock always delivers without giving a hell what anybody else thinks about it.

Top Five isn’t without its problems, yet even with its shortcomings it still remains one of the strongest comedies of the year and Chris Rock‘s best material in years. Top Five is Chris Rock‘s best film as a writer/director without a doubt. It’s genuinely funny and slightly touching at times, reminding us never to count out Chris Rock as an all-around performer and entertainer. Top Five is top work material that’ll more than surprise you this Holiday season.

Top Five – 8.5/10

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