I just saw Chris Rock’s “Top Five”. As in, I got out of the showing less than an hour ago. It was TERRIBLE. When a movie’s strength is its cameos (I miss Opie and Anthony on SiriusXM dammit, and Seinfeld and even Adam Sandler are great), it’s safe to say that the movie isn’t good.
I want to do more than just review the movie here, though. I want to analyze Chris Rock through the lens of the film and how it unknowingly demonstrates that fame and money aren’t worth anything if you don’t know how to wield them.
First, I’m just an asshole with a blog on the Internet. That’s it. I do know a thing or two about standup comedy and comedians in general. I try to know a little about a lot of things, and have always had a knack for deconstructing people. So these are just my opinions, and everyone has a right to my opinion.
Prior to seeing the film I read one pull quote from an interview Chris Rock did, talking about how if most people knew how really great rich people had it, there would be riots everywhere, and Rock gives personal examples of his privilege. I interpret this quote to mean he has some guilt over being successful.
The movie is about a stand up comedian who breaks into the movies. Rock’s character is days away from marrying a reality television star. The film apparently takes place on the Friday his first serious film is being released. The movie opens with a news segment to explain all the background to the audience, and then goes straight to a live interview on a college campus where Rock’s adoring fans ask fanboy questions and end in a standing ovation.
So things look good on the outside, but Rock’s movie is getting terrible reviews. His agent gets him to do an apparently all day interview with a New York Times reporter named Chelsea Brown. Rock reluctantly agrees to do the interview after arguing with his agent and what ensues is the female interview getting up in Rock’s business. It’s quickly revealed that Rock’s character is an addict in recovery and a flashback of Rock hitting bottom is shown.
Bear with me, because I’m only giving the background here to get to the point, and trust me, the movie is not worth your time seeing, but this post is worth reading.
In the flashback, Rock goes to a strip club where a comedy club promotor gets a couple of strippers to agree to go back to Rock’s room. They come back to Rock’s room and eat and talk and then they get it on. A 3-way! There’s nudity and having sex with multiple girls side by side on the bed….TO ROMANTIC 80′S BACKGROUND MUSIC. This is done to contrast the “comedy” that happens next, when the promotor comes into the room and raw dogs and spews semen everywhere to more of a hip hop beat.
Rock’s character says something like, “One minute I’m with these two angels and the next minute they’re the most repulsive girls in the world.” And Rock can’t leave the room because “I was naked, where was I to go?”
The girls end up not being paid and then say Rock raped them (comedy gold there, false rape accusations are ALWAYS hilarious) and Rock’s character goes to jail. Rock bottom.
Lesson to learn: Never pedestalize women, ESPECIALLY strippers.
That’s the setup for the first third of the movie, and the themes here keep repeating throughout the movie. The high-level plot line is predictable, Rock and interviewer chick are going to fall in love, and the film even ends on a fairy tale note where Rock wants to literally be Prince Charming to a woman who shoved a tampon covered in hot sauce up her boyfriend’s ass because he made fun of her credit score. As an aside, is getting unknowingly ass reamed by a hot sauce-covered tampon as a comedy bit proof that rape culture exists?
Here’s what the movie reveals about Rock: he has no control of his life and he hates it. The character is different enough than Rock so Rock can have plausible deniability, but there’s no mistaking it, the character represents Rock.
One of the themes of the movie is Rock’s character doesn’t want to marry the reality TV star because the wedding is about her, and not Rock. Even their wedding ring needs to play well on TV. The most realistic line in the movie comes from this reality TV character, and she says to Rock something like, “I’m not talented. I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I can’t do anything. I’m not you. This is all I have.”
Just like the standing ovation in the movie shows, Rock’s character doesn’t really believe he has “it.” He wants to be taken seriously, and not seen as merely a comedian, because being rich, famous, and funny somehow isn’t good enough.
I think in real life, Rock has had an issue with becoming famous for his OJ Simpson bit. He has never topped that bit and what was that, 16 years ago now? On top of that, it’s highly likely he didn’t write some of the funniest lines of that bit. So Rock likely feels guilty about being famous and trapped because he has to live for everyone else (the public, his agents, his movie fiancee who surely represents someone) while he simultaneously refuses to take control of his life for himself.
I can’t realistically convey bad this movie is. I knew within the first 5 minutes it was going to be a stinker and it was. I also know that the difference between a bad movie and a good movie sometimes isn’t that much. As much as the film suggests that relentless honesty is a worthwhile goal, Rock’s character never delivers it.
Had the movie been more raw and honest, and had Rock been willing to break through his guilt and totally take charge, this may have been a great movie. The elements are certainly there. And not only did Rock write, but he directed this as well, so when it fails, it has his name all over it.
Rock held back in the film, and if he doesn’t agree, then his problems are bigger than he can ever admit. Had he taken aim at things he truly doesn’t like about the system or the business, or how it’s very hard to please everyone and say “fuck it, I gotta do what’s right for me,” the film could have been profound. Instead, the highlight of the movie isn’t Chris Rock but Jerry Seinfeld, who, by making it rain on strippers, is showing Chris Rock exactly how not to give a fuck.
Rock is by all means famous, talented, and successful. The message I took from the movie is that it’s more important to Rock that he be Prince Charming and aim to be praised by the women of his life. Rock doesn’t love himself and thus he doesn’t earn the love he so desires, because he doesn’t believe he’s worthy of his success.
Rock’s dad is shown in the movie as a ball buster who hurts Rock’s feelings. His dad actually says, “Oh, so you can hurt other people’s feelings, but no one’s allowed to hurt yours?” In the movie his dad calls him a pussy. What does Rock do? He turns around and gives his dad all of the money in his pocket as a reward. Because again, he has to live with other people’s expectations of what he should do.
But what do I know, it’s just a movie, right? I’m really overanalyzing it and projecting my alpha desires on what the movie should have been. I’m just overreacting. Except Rock himself says it a few times in the movie: “It’s never just a movie. It’s always about something bigger.” In fact, the movie opens with this very dialog.
Fame and money don’t bring happiness, folks. But a sure path to unhappiness is living your life for other people all the time. That lesson, and Seinfeld making it rain, are the only redeeming aspects of the film.