Friday, December 12, 2014
Introduced by Charlie Rose as the funniest man in America, comedian Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is a recovering alcoholic who is famous for playing a character called Hammy, a cop in a bear costume. Looking for a breakthrough in his career, he makes a new ridiculous movie about Haitian slave's rebellion.
During a publicity tour before the movie's opening, hilariously persuaded by his agent (Kevin Hart), Andre agrees to an interview by a reporter, Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) for a profile story in The New York Times.
Perhaps due to the fact that Chelsea is also a recovering alcoholic, during the period of one day, Andre and Chelsea quickly click and are able to make deeper connections while walking around the cinematic streets of New York City and flashing back to Andre's wild days in the past.
The "interview" is constantly interrupted by the Andre's superficial and demanding reality-star fiancé Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) who is preparing their wedding as a live event on the TV network Bravo. Meanwhile, Chelsea spills the beans to Andre about her ambiguous and unfaithful boyfriend Brad (Anders Holm) as a comic relief.
Being a work by Chris Rock, the film is expected to be funny, if not funnier. Some jokes in the film are smart and laugh-out funny, and some are over-the-top and raunchy. The film certainly has plenty amusing or surprising moments, but it's not a brainless slapstick farce.
Often shot in a documentary style and use actors' real name in the movie, the film essentially is crafted as a drama and puts the characters before the jokes. However, that would work better if the story were set on a solid foundation.
The truth is that if Chelsea were indeed a reporter from The New York Times in real life, she would have been fired right on the spot. Chelsea's job is to interview her subject, Andre. Yet, she not only lets Andre turn the table around and dig stories about her past, but also she gets involved with her subject romantically. No matter how long they walk and talk on the streets, these two characters are nothing like Celine and Jesse in Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" (1995). It's perplexing how they can hit off so quickly, and in New York City, not in Vienna. Yet, their relationship is crucial to the character development.
One the best moments in the film is when Andre performs a standup gig at a comedy club. You can immediately tell how Chris Rock feels at ease in his most familiar territory. That might indicate which direction the green light has been turned on at a crossroad.