If I had to name my Top Five favorite Chris Rock films, this new film of his would be Number One. He stars in it. He wrote it. He directed it. The comedian/actor has seen the work of and was influenced by the classic films of Charlie Chaplin, French director Eric Rohmer, Sidney Lumet, Spike Lee and fellow comedian/actor/director Woody Allen. Like Woody Allen has done, Rock plays a comedian/entertainment industry worker who takes stock of his career, his relationships and the substance of his personal life. Allen did this in Annie Hall, Stardust Memories and Hannah and Her Sisters. Rock does that as a rather immature, alcoholic comedian-turned-major movie star named Andre Allen. Action movie comedies made him a big movie star. He wants to grow artistically and has released a history-based slave drama, a deep-dish drama that seems destined to tank at the box office. Andre does interviews to promote his new film.
In addition to his new movie, he's on the brink of marriage. The wedding will be a sure-fire ratings champ on his fame-hungry fiancée's reality TV series.
Chris Rock takes us from Harlem uptown to Fifth Avenue in midtown to the West Village downtown. We see a New York City that's not all black, not all white, not all rich, not all poor, not all heterosexual. It's real. It's the New York I know and love.
Now, think about the movie critics we've seen on network TV morning news shows. Or on local TV news. If there was a casting call sent to agents for "someone to do play a bit part as a movie critic on a morning TV news show" in a film, how many black and Latino actors would be submitted to audition for the part? How many women of any color would be submitted? Movie critics on TV has been a predominantly white boys club -- Gene Shalit, the late Joel Siegel, Siskel & Ebert, Ben Lyons & Ben Mankiewicz, Richard Roeper, Leonard Maltin, David Edelstein now seen on CBS Sunday Morning, Neil Rosen seen by New Yorkers in NY1.
They told and tell us black folks why we should see The Color Purple, Hustle & Flow, Precious, The Help and 12 Years a Slave. Did you see any black critic on TV telling you to see 12 Years a Slave? Nope. But columnist Rex Reed wrote a rave review of it that got quoted in national press. Are Rex Reed and David Edelstein hip to the Tupac, Questlove, Salt-N-Pepa and DMX references and elements in Top Five if they review it? I wonder.
Over the years, we've seen Rock mature as a talent. Before he gave us this 1 day in New York with comedian/actor Andre Allen, he gave a sophisticated performance as the harried dad/boyfriend and NPR host in the comedy 2 Days in New York. I reviewed it in a TV pilot two years ago. Here's a clip: