I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE (2007)
Starring Chris Rock, Kerry Washington, Gina Torres, Steve Buscemi, Edward Herrmann, Welker White, Samantha Ivers, Michael K. Williams, Cassandra Freeman, Steven A. Smith and Wendell Pierce.
Screenplay by Chris Rock and Louis C.K.
Directed by Chris Rock.
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures. 90 minutes. Rated R.
Chris Rock is a brilliant stand-up comedian. He has a lot more problems with making funny movies. I Think I Love My Wife actually looked like it could be one of the better ones. I suppose if you get technical, it is one of his better films — but that is a reflection of the fact that his other films are mostly so bad, not that I Think I Love My Wife is particularly good.
Rock has a funny story idea here. Well, it’s not exactly his idea. Rock has a tendency to remake well known films poorly (Heaven Can Wait, The Longest Yard). Here he at least picks a slightly more obscure film, the French romantic comedy Chloe in the Afternoon and does a pretty good, if just slightly mediocre job of it.
Rock plays Richard Cooper, a middle-class banking executive who seems to have to perfect world — a good job, lovely house, beautiful wife (Gina Torres) and cute kids (okay, cutesy kids, anyway… they are a little over-the-top precocious, but this is a comedy after all.). However, Cooper has a major case of the seven-year itch. He and his wife have settled into a sexless brother-sister relationship — they love each other but the passion is gone. They talk at each other without really listening, go to a counselor who judges them silently but offers little constructive advice.
He also seems to love his kids… at least they show him playing with them on the rare occasions that the kids are on screen. In fact, they keep showing some weird game with his daughter where he runs after her with his tie around his head like some odd bandana. I kept wondering what this game was and why it kept being shown, until this same look leads to a later personal epiphany for Cooper — one that had nothing to do with his daughter and also sort of made no sense as a story point or even an action. Most men, no matter how rushed, will untie their tie rather than loosen it and try to slip it over their heads.
It seems like a lot of juggling to do for so little pay-off, unfortunately things like this happen pretty often here. (See also: the annoying rapping delivery guys on elevators, the identical Michael Jackson discussions, etc. I know that comedy schools teach that repetition is funny, but there has to be some reason for the repetition in a storyline, it’s not just supposed to be just thrown out there.)
Because he is getting no sex, Cooper fantasizes about every woman he meets. Women on the street, in the stores, at the office, in bars. He always blames the women around him for his own urges — best shown by a scene in which he nearly gets a waitress fired by complaining about her cleavage, just because he couldn’t trust himself to look the other way. He may think that he is in some odd way trying to be faithful to his wife, but he comes off looking like a bit of an asshole for doing it.
These fantasies may come to reality when Nikki (Kerry Washington), a gorgeous party girl who used to be engaged to his best friend years before, strolls back into his life. Nikki is sexy, fun-loving and flirtatious. She is also selfish, a little shallow, unusually blunt and even has a little casual cruelty in her. (On their first reunion, she amuses herself and him by throwing dollar bills out of a high-rise office window and watching the people scurry after the money, all the while mocking them.) The two of them start a strange relationship — she visits him at work almost every day, they take three-hour lunches together and share intimate secrets. It’s sort of like an affair without sex. Not that she doesn’t give off a vibe that she would be open to that possibility.
The main problem with I Think I Love My Wife is that Rock stacks the deck too much. I know that in real life Rock is happily married man, but honestly, he makes married life look nearly unbearable — more a responsibility than a choice. (At least that’s the way I take it as a single man — in an interview I heard Rock say that married men complain about these things, but they don’t want to change them that much).
However, it is almost unfair how much he tilts the storyline to make it okay to consider an affair. His wife is nearly as beautiful as his fantasy woman (not quite, but not many people are as beautiful as Kerry Washington), but she is constantly flipping back and forth between being the perfect wife and being a nagging shrew. Sex is completely off the table (most marrieds have it at least occasionally…) and all the major conversations are about the kids. No one could really blame him for wanting to stray for a beautiful, flirty, sexually open (frankly, just a little too sexually open) woman.
It’s a shame, because there is a good movie in I Think I Love My Wife, fighting to show itself over occasionally lazy storytelling. There are enough good moments and fine acting to recommend this film, but it should be even better.
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 27, 2007.