It would not be wrong to suggest that “Top Five” is Chris Rock as you've never seen him before. Yes, Rock has directed, written, and starred in movies previously, but “Top Five” is exceptionally different from “I Think I Love my Wife” and “Head of State.”
The movie features Rock as a stand-up comedian turned comic actor, Andre Allen, who is trying to move away from comedy and towards dramatic fare. On the day his new movie, the tale of a slave revolt in Haiti, opens, he is shadowed by a reporter from the New York Times, Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), who is doing a piece on him. It proves a learning experience for both characters.
“Top Five,” is a look at celebrity, what it means to be a celebrity, and what actors can endure on a day-to-day basis. Rather than a woe-is-me tale of how awful it is to be rich and famous, it feels like a much more honest examination of the issues (large and small) faced by Allen and Brown.
When I sat down with Rock to talk about the movie and the way the entertainment industry has changed over the course of his time in it, he was just as forthright and honest as Allen in his more candid moments in the film. That isn't to say that Rock-as he made quite clear to us-and Allen are the same, but there are unquestionably similarities. Rock said it was akin to Jerry Seinfeld's character on “Seinfeld” or Louis C.K.'s on “Louie.”
In terms of the nature of celebrity and the changes he has seen there, Rock told us, “Celebrity used to be a byproduct of excellence, or at least someone trying to achieve excellence, now celebrity is just someone trying to be a celebrity.” But, he doesn't think that necessarily is for the worse, pointing out that “These people aren't the first non-talented people to be famous.”
The candid discussion went further, with Rock explaining where he sees himself in the future. “I hope 10 or 12 years from now I'm doing a junket… for some movie that everybody thinks is good.” He then slightly amended that to, “I just hope to still be in the business in 10 or 12 years.”
Of course, no one knows what the future holds, but in the present, “Top Five” shows us a Chris Rock we haven't seen before, and one that I hope to see again. The movie is, as Gregory Ellwood noted in his review, a movie about sobriety and honesty and race and celebrity and legacy and a lot more.
Also featuring Gabrielle Union, J.B. Smoove, Cedric the Entertainer, and Ben Vereen, “Top Five” opens in theaters on December 12th.