Sunday, December 14, 2014

Top Five

I note below that I was improperly psyched for this movie, in large part because I didn't realize that Rosario Dawson was going to have such a central role - all of the posters and standees I saw in theaters had Chris Rock front and center, and many reprinted reviews that talked about how he's a genius as the writer & director. Most of the previews I've seen emphasized him too, with a couple being the personal sales job things that the theater chains have recently taken a liking to. He's also done a bunch of great, far-ranging interviews to support the release. It's totally reasonable to think of this as a Chris Rock movie, first, second, and third.

The thing is, I really like Rosario Dawson. She only rarely seems to get good roles in good movies, and I honestly can't understand why. She's beautiful, funny, and has the chops to carry a scene or movie on her own. I would rather not imagine this movie without her. Here's hoping this movie serves as a reminder of how good she is and she gets some better parts soon.

Top Five

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 13 December 2014 at AMC Boston Common #13 (first-run, DCP)

It took roughly a minute of Top Five for me to realize that I really hadn't been anticipating this film enough - it is, after all, built around Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson hanging around and verbally jousting with each other, and I like both of them a lot. It's not much longer than that before it's clear that we're getting both of them at their best, and that makes for a formidably funny movie.

The pair are doing this walk-and-talk because former stand-up comedian Andre Allen (Rock) has a new movie coming out - Uprize!, a dead-serious dramatization of the Haitian revolution - and the New York Times has managed to get reporter Chelsea Brown (Dawson) a chance to tag along for the day. But while Andre just wants to talk about the movie, the public at large is more interested in his upcoming wedding unscripted-TV star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) or if he'll ever return to his blockbuster series about a cop who is also a talking bear.

This is Rock's movie in more ways than one - he not only writes, directs, and stars, but it's easy enough to look at the broad strokes of Andre's character and guess that it's pulled from his experience - but Rosario Dawson is just as crucial to its success, and maybe even more important in front of the camera. That first scene establishes her as a cheerful, optimistic counter to Allen's cynicism, but it's never unbalanced: Chelsea is obviously smart, and the fact that she's generally positive doesn't mean she can't push back at Andre. She gets to regularly take over the movie as well, and those bits are terrific; it's easy to see a movie about a writer trying to pry something out of a reluctant interviewee that's just as full and funny as the one where the emphasis is the other way around.

Full review at EFC.

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