Monday, March 19, 2007

I Think I Love My Wife

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Chris Rock's I Think I Love My Wife is based on an Eric Rohmer film called Chloe in the Afternoon; cowriter/director Rock has set his version in modern-day Manhattan.

Investment banker Richard Cooper (Rock) enjoys a comfortable suburban life with wife Brenda (Gina Torres, just annoying enough to make Rock's wandering eye plausible) and two kids. Richard's voice-over narration informs us that the couple is bored, but the film locates the problem somewhere lower. Brenda seems to have no interest in sex with her husband, and Richard can't stop thinking about other women.

So when old friend Nikki (Kerry Washington) shows up in Richard's office one day, Richard begins to wonder if marriage is such a great deal after all. Nikki is attractive, available, and somewhat improbably into Richard. She drops a number of hints that Richard used to be a wild man, but it's hard to get that impression from Rock's tamped-down performance.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketKerry Washington was last seen on the wrong end of Idi Amin's bad temper in The Last King of Scotland, and she's good again here. But Nikki is more a writer's creation than an actual person. She offers Richard a vaguely defined world of hot sex and no responsibility, and the fact that she's plainly unhappy herself is only hinted at. I Think I Love My Wife ends the only way it could end, since Richard and Nikki are much too different for anything to last. Nikki is shunted off to engagement with a bland tycoon (Wendell Pierce) and Richard and Brenda reconnect physically.

Rock's script (cowritten with Louis C.K.) takes some jabs at high-end Wall Street corporate culture. Richard's colleagues are openly judgemental of him when Nikki keeps showing up at the office, but a white coworker (Steve Buscemi) that we're told has interoffice flings seems to skate by. One good joke: Richard is the only African-American on an elevator at work. Finally a young man in casual clothes gets on and begins to rap out loud along with the crude lyrics in his headphones. Richard shrinks into the corridor as the other passengers condemn him by association. Later in the film the scene is repeated, except the elevator rapper is white. Nobody seems to mind. It's that kind of subtler observation I hope forms the basis of Rock's next film.

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