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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 17, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Accent

Chris Rock spins old comedy in wrong direction

“I Think I Love My Wife,” the new film starring, co-written and directed by Chris Rock, seems to adhere to the American idea that European art equals legitimate art. If a film is in a Romance language and is devoid of all the fancy trappings of Hollywood, in many people’s minds, it is above derision. If people are bored by it, they lack the capacity to understand it.

Rock based his comedy on Eric Rohmer’s 1972 talk-fest, “Chloe in the Afternoon,” the sixth and final chapter of the director’s self-named, “Moral Tales.” As talented and witty as Rohmer is, his films often tend to be chauvinistic and intellectually patronizing to his audiences. Unfortunately, Rock hasn’t played down either of these attributes in his quest for credibility as both an actor and a director.

Rock plays Richard Cooper, an investment banker bored with his “humdrum” existence, which includes a beautiful, compassionate wife (Gina Torres), two adorable children and a nice suburban home conveniently located near his cushy job in Manhattan. Stuck in a rut (and all too aware of his status as one of the few black men in his office), he fantasizes about dream women and illicit love affairs to escape his monotonous life that lacks physical love. Of course, he would never actually cheat on his wife.

The improbably named Nikki Tru (Kerry Washington), an old friend, then saunters back into his life. Ostensibly looking for a reference for a new job, she more than hints at the possibilities of a relationship with Richard, and decides to ingratiate herself into his life by any means.

Richard must decide whom to be with, but since this is a more mature Rock, the conclusion is foregone. And because Rock strains so hard to repress the more aggressive, louder and funnier side of him, the whole takes on a muted tone that doesn’t fit the film’s supposedly upbeat message. Rock emulates shots and dialogue from the original film without any sincerity or originality and looks mighty uncomfortable in yuppie clothes. He’s just wrong for the role. Thankfully, Torres and Washington add spark to their underwritten roles.

Audiences should give Rock credit for trying something different, but he fails to bring his own style to the material and instead tries too hard to be like Rohmer, a dubious goal at best.

“I Think I Love My Wife” was written by Chris Rock and Louis C.K., and directed by Rock.

“I Think I Love My Wife” received two out of four stars.