T5 copy

Every year it happens, and every year I forget about it: TIFF-fatigue.

It’s that point late in the festival where several days worth of mainlining films, low sleep, bad food, and running around the city finally catches up with us festival-goers and we hit a wall. It has nothing to do with the quality of the material we’re watching, we just find ourselves in a weird state of tunnel-vision, and an overall weariness. There is no known cure for this terrible first-world-problem, but if someone were to invent the perfect drug to cure TIFF-fatigue, I present that Chris Rock would be the guy.

TOP FIVE finds Rock writing, directing, and starring in a story about a Hollywood star named Andre Allen. Andre has made his bones by coming up through the comedy circuit, eventually starring in a series of lowbrow comedies. At this point in his career though, Andre is trying to shift gears and do different things – namely, star in a drama about a slave uprising. In an effort to sell this change in direction, he connects with a reporter from the New York Times (Rosario Dawson). She manages to cut through Andre’s bullshit and ask him in-depth questions about his career, his marriage, and his addictions. As the hours pass, and the questions mount, we begin to understand who Andre is and how he got here.

That understanding is fuelled by Rock crafting one of the funniest offerings of his wickedly funny career.

There is no way I could do any joke or comedic scene in TOP FIVE justice, so I don’t dare try to paraphrase them here. What I will say is that as both a writer and director, Chris Rock has arrived with this film. There are few things in the world that a comedian as talented as Rock can’t make funny, so the fact that the movie is as hilarious as it is isn’t all that surprising. What is surprising is how sharp, clever, and on-point everything else about this movie is. Rock has very well-thought-out things to say about the being a performer, the nature of fame, the line between personality and persona, and the expectations that surround our celebrities. We elevate our court jesters for the joy they bring us, but the moment they want to offer us anything different, we feel it is our right to flay them and turn our backs. What’s deft about this point is that Chris Rock brings it up without specifically bringing it up, and with that it cuts deep.

Another interesting element to TOP FIVE is the way it circles the link between comedy and substance abuse. It wonders aloud if a comic who uses can be funny without their vice, and leaves us to wonder if we are using these gifted artists the way they use their own poison. So many of the best comedians have tapped into sources of great pain. Should we continue to be surprised when that pain overwhelms…and should we do more to give back to those who give us so much.

The fact that these ideas are wrapped around scenes with so many funny people bullshitting, and some truly shocking visual jokes is a masterwork. It could well be the beginning of a whole new level for Rock’s genius, and is handily one of the funniest films I have seen in the twelve years I have been attending this festival.

TOP FIVE is interested in what makes up our individual personalities, and what we hope to learn from the personalities around us. It is pure joy; a vitamin cocktail of humour and observation that plays far above slot.

Quite simply – it’s a film that should be seen as soon as possible.