I Think I Love My Wife - 3/16/07
smartmarriages at lists101.his.com
Fri Mar 16 09:50:16 EDT 2007
Here's a terrific review of Chris Rock's new movie from the New York Times.
I thought you and the list might enjoy. - Brendan Kelly
Eager to hear from those of you that see it. - diane
New York Times
March 16, 2007
MOVIE REVIEW | 'I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE'
Chris Rock in the Afternoon By A. O. SCOTT
> Mr. Rock has not only done his
> best work as a director and screenwriter but has also made an unusually
> insightful and funny mainstream American movie about the predicaments of
> modern marriage.
In "I Think I Love My Wife" Chris Rock, who also directed and wrote the
script (with his frequent collaborator Louis C. K.), plays Richard Cooper,
an investment banker whose life is as bland as his name. Richard, in his
voice-over narration, is the first to admit that his situation is enviable
in many ways: He has a lovely wife named Brenda (Gina Torres), two cute
small children, a spiffy house in the suburbs and a flourishing career at a
reputable Manhattan firm.
The problem, as you may be able to intuit from this checklist of bourgeois
amenities, is that he's bored. He has reached a point at which existence
settles into a series of pleasant routines and minor frustrations. In
Richard's case one of these frustrations the sexual cooling of his
marriage becomes the source of some potentially major trouble.
"My marriage is frozen solid," he declares. He means to say that it's
strong, but the metaphor sneaks up and traps him in an uncomfortable
admission. To make matters worse, he delivers this diagnosis to Nikki Tru
(Kerry Washington), a human blowtorch even without the cigarettes, she'd
still be smoking aimed at the facade of Richard's comfortable, complacent
Nikki, the ex-girlfriend of an old friend, shows up at Richard's office one
afternoon, supposedly seeking a letter of recommendation. By caprice or
design she ensnares him in a long, volatile flirtation, a relationship that,
while not technically adulterous, is nonetheless tinged with furtiveness and
If the premise sounds familiar, that is in part because "I Think I Love My
Wife" is a remake, at once free-handed and faithful, of "Chloe in the
Afternoon" (1972), the sixth and last of Eric Rohmer's "Moral Tales." Mr.
Rock's affection for this source is evident in his careful restaging of some
of its shots and scenes, even though Mr. Rohmer's wry, ironical temperament
could not be further from Mr. Rock's candid, confrontational stand-up style.
In attempting to synthesize the later French New Wave of the late 1960s and
early '70s with the upscale African-American romantic comedies that
flourished in Hollywood in the late 1990s, Mr. Rock has not only done his
best work as a director and screenwriter but has also made an unusually
insightful and funny mainstream American movie about the predicaments of
There are some raucous set pieces and a lot of frank, jokey talk about sex,
but "I Think I Love My Wife" is not after crude or easy hilarity, and Mr.
Rock works hard to hold his aggressive, irrepressible comic personality in
check. Though he has made great strides as a filmmaker his previous
effort, "Head of State," was a better idea for a movie than an actual movie
he is still, unfortunately, not much of an actor.
He is able, just barely, to impersonate a buttoned-up suburban professional,
looking perfectly respectable in his suits but never quite conveying the
inner life of the man inside them. Mr. Rock has a bit of a Woody Allen
problem, in that any character he plays will always seem to be a transparent
alter ego, and in the case of Richard Cooper this causes blurriness and
confusion. Is this guy supposed to be Chris Rock or not? And if not, who is
he supposed to be?
Richard's everyman qualities, in other words, clash with Mr. Rock's
irreverent individuality. But the movie still works, in part because the
observational sharpness that characterizes this comedian's best performance
work is sprinkled through the script. Without making race into a Big Theme,
Mr. Rock and Louis C. K. nonetheless pepper the film with sharp insights
into the black middle class, taking note of how the consciousness of race
remains lodged in the fine grain of daily life. In front of her young
daughter Brenda insists on spelling the words "white" and "black" instead of
saying them, and Nikki, examining Richard's iPod, offers a piquant diagnosis
of his monochromatic musical tastes.
The key to the movie, in many ways, is Ms. Washington, whose flighty, needy,
unpredictable character might have been better suited to Paris in 1972 than
to present-day Manhattan. Nikki is a bit of a male fantasy, a dangerous
temptress whose motives and feelings are as mysterious as they are intense,
and whose attention is like oxygen to the sputtering vanity of a successful,
sexually unfulfilled man.
Luckily, Ms. Washington is as quick-witted and subtle as she is lovely, and
she makes Nikki not just seductive but interesting, a quality that is
crucial to the story's credibility. (Steve Buscemi, as Richard's wise,
philandering colleague, similarly rounds out what might have been a flat,
In short, "I Think I Love My Wife" is smart and likable, which is lavish
praise in a season whose comic offerings have included "Music and Lyrics"
and "Because I Said So." The success of this movie also suggests,
refreshingly enough, that not every Hollywood remake of a French movie is
necessarily a crime against taste. I look forward to seeing the boxed set of
Chris Rock's "Moral Tales" on my shelf, in alphabetical order right between
Richard Pryor and Eric Rohmer.
"I Think I Love My Wife" is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent
or adult guardian). It has some very frank and grown-up discussions of sex,
though not much explicit depiction of it.
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