Top Five, or, Chris Rock: A Stand Up Director

New York? In a movie?

New York? In a movie?

The trailer for Top Five is pretty freaking funny, and it was certainly enough to get me interested in Chris Rock’s directorial debut, but what made the movie a must-see for me was a piece the stand-up comedian wrote in The Hollywood Reporter around the time of the movie’s release detailing his experiences and lessons learned as a black man in Hollywood, an overwhelmingly white industry. It’s a thoughtful, well written article that lays out truths about the entertainment industry that are more often than not simply ignored and it serves as an excellent companion piece to Rock’s film.

Top Five follows a day in the life of Andre Allen (played by Rock, who also wrote the film) a once massive comedian whose sobered up and more than likely seen his glory days fade away in the rearview.

From the very first shot Rock establishes his directorial voice, something akin to Woody Allen and Kevin Smith blended with Rock’s own endearing, confrontational comedic sensibilities. The writing is sharp and conversational, with a top-notch cast that make their characters live and breathe, making their observations on everything from race and gender to comedy and rap ring all the truer.

Rock has clearly spent his time in Hollywood not only observing the industry to arrive at blatant and uncomfortable truths well worth examining, but also developing the skills to share those truths with an audience in a well-written, well-directed, well-acted film.

Top Five excites me, because it establishes Chris Rock as a fresh and capable comedic director. It won’t take much to get me to see Rock’s sophomore effort.

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