Comedian Chris Rock still loves to crack us up, but lately, a stealth dramatist has emerged. Watching him play off Julie Delpy in ‘2 Days in New York’ (2012), Rock seemed a natural for ‘Boyhood’ director Richard Linklater-style talky, easygoing drama. That impulse is further pursued in the dazzling ‘Top Five’.
On the surface, this is an artist-in-a-rut comedy in the vein of Woody Allen’s ‘Stardust Memories’. But more deeply, it is also perhaps a semi-autobiographical reflection of the dead-end choices Rock himself might be feeling.
Rock plays Andre Allen, a star resisting the celebrity machine that has him wearing a bear costume in his latest blockbuster sequel and engaged to a shallow reality-TV princess (Gabrielle Union). Warily, he agrees to a day-long interview with a sharp journalist (Rosario Dawson), who is sure to expose him.
But that’s when the movie drops into a sensitive register, mutual vulnerabilities coming to the fore during the pair’s walk-and-talk NYC chat. There’s still broad humour here (Cedric the Entertainer owns the flow as a rowdy concert promoter), but that material is funnier for being a part of many comic tones.