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Top Five

Year: 2014
Studio: Paramount
Director: Chris Rock
Producer: Barry Diller/Scott Rudin
Writer: Chris Rock
Cast: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco, Cedric the Entertainer

After seeing this film I'm a bit bemused about the bidding war over it. I'm sure I remember that it broke all sorts of records among festival sales.

The backbone of the story is a fine enough idea, it's the parts on screen that are the problem. The simple problem with both Chris Rock as the hero - actor Andre Allen – and Rosario Dawson as the New York Times reporter Chelsea profiling him – is that both of them know there's a camera pointed at them.

It all seems very improvved and off the cuff, which might have been necessary given the shooting locations, but it also proves how such an approach also shows up on camera more than we imagine when it's not very polished. Both actors needed to reign it in.

Not that there's any over-the-top emotional melodrama, it just needs another level of nuance. It feels like the first read through where Rock and Dawson just hadn't found the natural register of their performances.

Other than that it's a cute and sweet enough love story with enough of an urban edge to keep it far from saccharine. Andre is a movie star and former comic modelled it seems off Rock himself. After a successful stand-up career he found fame and fortune in a lazy franchise about a bear in the police force, and the day we meet him he has his first drama coming out (about a Haitian slave uprising), the kind of movie he wants to be known for.

But as Andre goes through his day of media appearances and stardom (people yelling the name of the signature character he wants to forget to him on the street), it becomes increasingly obvious the new movie is going to bomb.

It also doesn't help that it's the day he's had Chelsea assigned to follow him around and do a hard-hitting profile on him. On top of that, his shallow fiance (Gabrielle Union) is dogging him about their upcoming reality show wedding.

Andre and Chelsea walk, drive and catch the subway back and forth across New York, meeting his family and hers, peeling back layers of secrecy and PR fluff and generally getting under each other's skin.

Despite the free wheeling plot it actually feels very constructed, not very realistic, overly episodic and not very well acted. Somewhere between an African American Woody Allen romance and a crappy street-level indie, it needed a few more passes and better care to fully impress as either.

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