After it’s widely publicised bidding war at the Toronto International Film Festival, Chris Rock’s new film Top Five has finally made its way to our shores. Purchased by Paramount for a whopping $12.5 million, the question on everyone’s lips is, was it worth it?
The film follows Andre Allen (Chris Rock), an actor trying to spread his wings and fly the comedic nest and be taken more seriously. Unfortunately for him, audiences aren’t ready for that. Adding to his career woes is his upcoming nuptials to reality star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) that her producers are taking over, his sobriety issues and he has a reporter from the New York Times called Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) following him around for the day. Just another day in the life of a celebrity.
I was lucky enough to be in Toronto for the film festival this year and witnessed the buzz around Top Five first hand. Even though I didn’t get to see the film or hear any reviews for it, it was definitely on my “To Watch” list. It doesn’t disappoint and is an enjoyable watch but was it worth $12.5 million? I’m not so sure.
The most common complaint I heard after the screening was that it was another version of Funny People starring Rock’s friend Adam Sandler. Sandler does in fact make a brief cameo in Top Five and I feel that if there were any issues over the story, he probably would have said no. I haven’t seen Funny People so any similarities were lost on me which seems to have been a good thing.
Ask any actor, nobody wants to be typecast as a certain character or even a certain genre. Actors crave variety so the idea that Andre Allen doesn’t want to be known as Hammy the Bear for the rest of his life is totally understandable. In fact, I don’t think anybody would want that. Of course we realise his reasons are actually fears that run much deeper than that, but it’s still relatable. He’s definitely at a crossroads in his life and is re-evaluating what’s really important in life. His wife to be is letting her producers dictate their wedding to the point that his close family and friends aren’t invited, he’s trying to promote his new film that he’s passionate about and all anyone wants to talk to him about is if he’s going to do another Hammy movie and he has a Cinderella obsessed reporter following him around asking him questions he doesn’t want to answer. You really feel for the guy and it definitely shows one of the downs of being in the spotlight.
One thing I definitely think they highlighted well was his sobriety issues. Spotlight or otherwise if people offer you a drink and you request something non alcoholic instead, there’s nearly always the question of why. As a celebrity it’s even more difficult because you don’t even have to ask for it. Sometimes it’s put right in front of you or sent over so the temptation is thrust in your face whether you put yourself in that position or not. So when Andre accepts a glass of champagne in the tailors, Chelsea naturally questions it and he responds “It’s just easier”. He doesn’t have to drink it but to keep other people happy he just accepts it. It’s not a fun position to be in and I don’t envy him at all and I have to say fair play to them for doing it.
The chemistry between Rock and Dawson is great and you can tell they’re probably great friends behind the scenes. Same can be said for the rest of the cast in fact. Everything flowed nicely and because they’re all friends it all came across as natural which is great. There are also some wonderful cameos in Top Five. I’ve already mentioned Adam Sandler but there’s also the likes of Tracey Morgan, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd and Jerry Seinfeld (who has probably the funniest joke in the entire film). I am leaving out another cameo but let me just say, it really made me “Smile” (you’ll get what I mean when you see it).
Top Five is an enjoyable watch and out of all the unsigned films at TIFF, I can see why this one was the most popular. I’m still not convinced it was worth that much but I can’t say I didn’t laugh a lot or that I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I can’t pick out anything that I didn’t particularly like. Sometimes hype can count against you and that could be an issue for Top Five. I would encourage people to see it just to make up their own minds about it. Oh and just so there’s no question about it, my top five doesn’t include two of the producers #JustSayin.