Top Five is Chris Rock's answer to Woody Allen's Stardust Memories, a film about a comedian who doesn't feel funny any more. Rock is more abrasive as a screen presence than Allen, continually riffing away about sex and ready to address everyday racism in as provocative a way as he can. Rosario Dawson plays a journalist sent to interview him for The New York Times.
The film's trump card is its rigorous honesty. Rock is scathing in his depiction of celebrity-obsessed culture but he is equally frank about his own character's shortcomings. André Allen (Rock) is a recovering alcoholic who thinks he could only perform when he was high.
Tired of appearing in "Hammy the Bear" movies for New Rat Entertainment, he has attempted to re-invent himself by making a "serious" drama, whose plot revolves around slaves killing thousands of white people during the Haitian Revolution. At the same time, in a bid to boost his profile, he is about to marry a reality TV show star. Everyone here is on the make, even Dawson's seemingly sympathetic journalist.
Top Five doesn't yield as many laughs as might have been expected and leaves a sour taste at times but it is probing and perceptive. Rock isn't scared to make himself the butt of the joke. It helps, too, that his scenes with Dawson have some of the same mix of charm and trenchant observation as those between Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise trilogy.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies