I Think I Love My Wife
|Chris Rock||Richard Cooper|
|Kerry Washington||Niikki Tru|
|Gina Torres||Brenda Cooper|
|Edward Herrmann||Mr. Landis|
|Directed by||Chris Rock|
On his HBO show Real Time recently, Bill Maher asked Chris Rock about his new movie, I Think I Love My Wife. ?I understand it?s based on an obscure old French move by some director I?ve never heard of,? Maher said. He shook his head and asked incredulously, ?Do you like French movies?? ?Yes,? said Rock. He looked a little bemused at the question. For the record, he admitted to being clean and articulate too. And black enough to be president.
The obscure French movie was Chloe in the Afternoon (L?Amour l?Apr?s-Midi) (1972), by Eric Rohmer. In the ?70s, Rohmer was hot. The foreign film boom was at its height in this country, and Rohmer, one of the editors of the fabled Cahiers du Cin?ma (along with such legends as Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard), was one of the lions of the French New Wave. His series of Six Moral Tales had caught our attention with My Night at Maud?s (1969), and he was at the height of his popularity with the release of Chloe, the acclaimed last film in that series.
Rock is a smart and funny comedian whose HBO specials and movie career would not necessarily suggest a passion for the Nouvelle Vague. But he has made a smart and funny adaptation of Rohmer?s Chloe, and one that is surprisingly faithful to the source material. Rock?s version is funnier, broader, and more sentimental, Rohmer?s is more thoughtful and more rooted in reality. Rock?s is blacker, hipper, and sexier, but Rohmer?s shows a little more skin.
Rock co-wrote (with Louis C.K.) I Think I Love My Wife, and the first thing you wish he?d done would have been to come up with a better title. Rock also directed, and he stars as Richard Cooper, a successful young investment banker for a very white Manhattan firm. Richard has been married for seven years to the beautiful Brenda (Gina Torres). In Rohmer?s version it was three years, but the French don?t have our tradition of the seven-year itch. They get right down to it. The Coopers have a couple of kids, a house in the suburbs, a perfect life. There?s only one problem, he tells us in his opening voice over.
?I?m bored out of my f***ing mind.?
The crux of this boredom doesn?t take long to uncover. Brenda has lost interest in sex. Before their marriage, and in its early days, she was a passionate bedfellow, but now when he gets amorous she has a headache, or a meeting, or the kids might hear, or she just plain isn?t in the mood. ?The most dangerous time in a marriage,? Richard ruminates as he commutes to the city on the train, ?is when a couple accepts not having sex?.
Every woman looks good to him. He loves his wife and his kids, but he misses the sensual, spontaneous days of bachelorhood. He riffs on the contrast between the way things are before and after you?re married. In a hilarious fantasy sequence appropriated from the original, he imagines himself single, approaching beautiful women on the street who agree readily to his unambiguous propositions.
And then Nikki (Kerry Washington) shows up at his office. They haven?t seen each other since before Richard was married, when she was dating his best friend. The friend may have attempted suicide over her. Nikki is looking for a job, and wonders if Richard will give her a letter of recommendation. He does, and they start meeting in the afternoons, as friends.
The thing is, Nikki isn?t the kind of gal who could pass for a friend. Everything about her, from the way she dresses to the way she talks to the way she looks at Richard, fairly screams seduction. His friend and co-worker George (Steve Buscemi) puts it succinctly: ?I?ve had friends before, and they didn?t look like Nikki.? She?s amused at the idea of Richard as a happily married man. When he protests that he loves his wife, she smirks. ?You don?t say it right,? she tells him (for balance, his wife?s first words to him in the movie are ?You?re doing it wrong,? when he?s diapering the baby).
Their afternoon friendship progresses inevitably to a moment of truth, if that?s the right term. ?Life is about choice,? Richard observes in one of his more philosophically banal voice-overs. (A more trenchant bit of philosophy is voiced by Richard?s boss, played by Edward Herrmann, who advises that ?You can lose a lot of money chasing women, but you?ll never lose women chasing money?).
Richard?s choice mirrors the one in the Rohmer original, down to the device that triggers it. Rock?s use of this device is actually a little more vivid than Rohmer?s. There are a number of instances where Rock, in updating and personalizing the material, has made it, if not better, certainly more contemporary. Chloe in the Afternoon is a classic, whatever Bill Maher says, and I Think I Love My Wife might not rise to that level. It sags in places, and there are drawn-out, far-fetched sequences that test our patience. But it?s good, entertaining fun, handled with sophistication and style by an interesting filmmaker who gives us reason here to look forward to what he?ll come up with next.
© Text 2007 Jonathan Richards - Filmfreak.be