Done right, comedy can be a truly beautiful; a monster hidden in plain view.
Amid the fart jokes and the gross-out moments, a good writer can squeeze in plenty of truth, bravery and sword-sharp observations. In this respect, Chris Rock has been vastly underrated so far.
The likes of Judd Apatow and the Farrelly Brothers have become Hollywood behemoths… yet, the equally smart and trenchant Rock is still languishing on the sidelines. Perhaps this is his breakthrough moment.
With Top Five, Rock finds himself surfing right on the zeitgeist. In it, he plays Andre Allen, a comedian who is a ‘little famous’ and hoping to become a serious actor.
His girlfriend is Erika Long (Gabrielle Union), a reality star in the Kardashian mould who is hell-bent on getting their glitzy wedding televised. With a woman who prefers to kiss for the cameras in the driving seat, the entire wedding threatens to veer out of control.
Andre meets beautiful journalist Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) with the classic opening
gambit ‘You a real journalist or Miss Detroit?’.
Though she is doubtless beautiful and creative, he is less than enamoured with the encounter, as she panned his latest film Uprize (a film about slavery in Haiti).
As she manages to thaw him out, Chelsea holds up a mirror to his career crossroads, and the two have much more in common than first meets the eye.
There’s a lot going on here, often unravelling at a breakneck pace. Rock hits so many bases — sobriety, celebrity, politics, sex, race, reality TV — that the truisms, satire and one-liners fly past the audience’s faces before they can really enjoy them.
For all its sharpness, it’s mouthy and salty… like Woody Allen for the Instagram generation, but with more sexual misadventure and yelling. If you’re ‘F’ word averse, get ready to gird your loins. As a director though, Rock is seriously hitting his stride.
It’s interesting to note, too, that Jay-Z and Kanye West are co-producers of this film. Their stylish, music-video stamp is all over Top Five (here’s hoping the showbiz wedding irony wasn’t lost on them, either).
It’s a brash film with its finger on the pulse, but there’s enough warmth and charm here to keep everyone happy and wryly smiling throughout.
I've always had the impression that Hollywood never knew quite what to do with Chris Rock. He exploded with scatter-gun brilliance as a stand-up in the early 1990s, acknowledging his debt to Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy while firmly dissenting from some of the less savoury aspects of their race and gender-obsessed routines.
The Independent film critic Paul Whitington and Ross O'Neill of FilmFixx join Entertainment Editor Aoife Kelly to chat this week's big releases - Far from the Madding Crowd, Unfriended, and Get Up and Go.
Reviewed this week are Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Good Lie, A Pigeon Sat on a branch Reflecting on existence , The Falling and The Emperor's New Clothes.