Chris Rock couldn't have planned it this way, but his exuberant and wondrous comedy Top Five, opening at just the right time, is like an airdrop of candy over a country shaken by Ferguson and the Eric Garner grand jury decision. That's not to say Rock glosses over serious issues, or, for that matter, that he hits them hard. But somehow Top Five has its finger on the pulse of right now, not just in terms of race in America — but in terms of how we're all trying to do the best we can, with no jobs, a buttload of creeps in Congress, and dashed hopes of anything coming close to equality or fairness.
The story of a hugely successful comedian and actor — played by Rock himself — who turns away from comedy because he just doesn't "feel funny anymore," Top Five reminds us that as often as comedy fails, sometimes it's our best hope for resuscitation.
Rock's Andre Allen has just released a historical drama about the Haitian Revolution (it's called Uprize), and he's about to tie the knot with a reality-TV star, Gabrielle Union's Erica. He wanders New York with a Times reporter (Rosario Dawson), walking and talking, laughing and bickering, trying to suss out which elements of their conversation are typical star-vs.-journalist BS and which might actually be some kind of truth.
Top Five moves fast and almost never lets up. Its jokes unfold in complex layers: They're rarely just race-related, or political, or connected to the universal needs and wants of human beings -- often they're all three at once. Seeing it at the end of a crap week, I suddenly felt I could breathe again.