People claim that comedians are some of the saddest people in the world, which can be a difficult concept to grasp. While watching Top Five, you get a glimpse of how that comes true for someone like Allen. Rock took a risk with this film and I think his risk paid off.
In a semi-autobiographical style, Top Five is the story of famed comedian Andre Allen (Chris Rock) and his attempt to separate from the loveable and successful franchise “Hammy the Bear”. In an attempt to transition to dramatic films, Allen stars in a movie about Haitian slavery that receives very little buzz in comparison to the gossip surrounding his wedding to reality T.V. starlet, Erica Long (Gabrielle Union).
The movie opens with a conversation Allen is having with Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) of The New Yorker. Brown follows Allen around for the day giving the viewer an inside look at the hardships of fame.
As Allen prances around town doing press junket after press junket, you sense the pressure to “be funny” in even the most casual conversations. It’s easy to forget that comedians are regular people who aren’t always happy. What do they sacrifice to make others laugh? They surely can’t be happy all the time. We feel for Andre as he is struggling to be taken seriously as an actor. The fans with cell phones, the requests for money from family and friends, as well as the temptations in a world where the word “no” does not exist.
In another societal reflection, we see how reality television dictates the life of it’s stars, at least in the case of Erica, going so far as to say that if she and her fiancé don’t kiss in front of the camera, then it never actually happened. Andre is obviously struggling with this mentality and that’s where we witness the first crack in their relationship. Despite the heavy material, the film provides that signature Chris Rock humor. But the film isn’t dictated by humor. Some of the best scenes are when Andre returns to his old neighborhood, cracking jokes with his family, as they alternate between roasting each other and asking one another’s “top five” rappers. Brown is there for it all, collecting material for her profile.
In my opinion, you have to be pretty intelligent to be a successful comedian. Of course, there is crude humor that requires little to no thought, but it’s the job of the best comedians to not only remain up to date on American pop culture, politics and policies, but then to have the delivery to make you laugh at those issues. Comedians are able to find humor in the most bleak and depressing subjects, but this film is not trying to make you laugh from start to finish. There are spans when you aren’t laughing, but I believe such is to represent the life of “the funniest man in America”.
For the record, my top five are Tupac, Public Enemy, Kanye West, Queen Latifia, and Nas.