I live-tweeted my thoughts on the film as I watched it last night, and, my summation was that it’s definitely Chris Rock’s best work to date, but the problem with that statement is that, it’s really not saying a heck of a lot, when you consider the strength (or lack thereof) in the films he wrote and directed prior to “Top Five.” So I thought it was ok, and don’t quite understand what all the talk of it being a potential awards season contender, was all about. But I was glad to see him step up his game, as the saying goes, showing progress in his writing, directing and acting. Still some room to grow before we can really start talking “Oscar-nominated writer/director/producer/actor Chris Rock.”
All that said, the multi-hyphenate is apparently working on his next movie, which he shared few details about in an interview with Complex magazine’s UK site, which will be made in the same mold as “Top Five,” and will even feature a lot of the same cast from that film – a movie he considers the real start of his filmmaking career: “… As I start to write another movie, it’s like, “Okay, this is the tone.” I looked at ‘Top 5’ as the beginning of my movie career […] I mean no disrespect to anything I did before, but this is you know […] This is the direction I’m gonna go in.”
In response to praise he received from producer Scott Rudin (who produced “Top Five”) Rock added: “We meet every week now going over this next movie. So yeah, he wants me to work at a faster pace. I can, I guess. I like doing movies. I’m doing another one soon with a lot of the same cast.”
And when asked whether he’s maybe building a Chris Rock comedy/acting troupe – as in featuring the same group of actors in all of his films – Rock said: “Some people shine in ‘Top Five.’ You might want to see a little more of Leslie Jones or Tracy [Morgan], once he gets better. I think Jerry Seinfeld showed us some things we haven’t seen.”
And when asked about any imperfections in “Top Five” that he wishes he could go back and fix, he said: “Nah, not really. I’m really pleased with ‘Top Five,’ I gotta tell you. No movie is perfect, but I’m really happy with it. I’m happy about how the movie makes people feel. It’s a comedy, it’s a love story, it’s nostalgic without being a period piece—you know what I mean? If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
That’s a good place to be when you’re a filmmaker. I’m glad that he himself realizes that his past work wasn’t exactly up-to-snuff, and that “Top Five” represents a sort of new beginning for him. I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes from here. As I said on Twitter, I would like to see him attempt something purely dramatic – a starring role too – and under someone else’s direction.
In a way, he’s almost like a Woody Allen when he was Chris Rock’s age, 30 years ago, in that he’s a comedic talent who writes and directs movies he stars him, and he plays essentially the same character (himself, really) in all of them, no matter what the story is. In fact, on Twitter last night, I said that “Top Five” was kind of like Chris Rock’s version of Woody Allen’s “Stardust Memories” – a story about an artist in transition, wanting to move away from his earlier funnier work, which fans routinely remind him of, and onto more serious fare, while drawn to 2 very different women, in a dialogue-heavy film that includes several flashback sequences, recalling past memorable moments, and more.
“Top Five,” which was released in December in the US, after impressing at the Toronto film festival last year, grossed just over $25 million worldwide. I actually thought it would earn a bit more than that, given all the buzz that followed it up to its theatrical release.
By the way, Chris Rock is 50 years old! 50 YEARS OLD!! Wow. When did that happen? Time flies…