I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE
Director: Chris Rock
Cast: Chris Rock, Kerry Washington, Gina Torres, Steve Buscemi, Edward Herrmann
MPAA Rating: (for pervasive language and some sexual content)
Running Time: 1:30
Release Date: 3/16/07
Review by Mark Dujsik
For as much edge as Chris Rock's comedy has, the humor in his movies is so pedestrian, and I Think I Love My Wife is no exception. Rock's sophomore feature as a director is a remake of Love in the Afternoon (or as it is sometimes referred, as in the credits for this movie, Chloe in the Afternoon), Eric Rohmer's 1972 exploration of marital boredom and the temptation of infidelity. I Think I Love My Wife is probably best called a butchering of Rohmer's work, although Rock's intentions are clearly not as intricate and probing as Rohmer's. The subtlety of the original is gone, but that's as is to be expected. That's not the intention here. The movie doesn't really reconstruct the original as it takes the basic plot, narrative structure, and romantic triangle and twists them into a comic look at the same material. Or at least it's supposed to be funny. No, Rock's humor is once again in its diluted form here (in spite of an R rating). The script, written by Rock and fellow comedian Louis C.K., is little more than broad, all-too-familiar stand-up routine bits translated into a story, and nothing explores the finer details of a marriage turning sour like a generic standup routine.
Rock plays Richard Cooper, an investment banker who's married with two kids and bored out of his mind. He and his wife Brenda (Gina Torres) attend marriage counseling, but neither the therapist nor his wife listen to him when he says the problem boils down to a lack of sex. There's no sex in their marriage. They don't have sex. It's a sexless marriage. He complains and complains, but still no go. He has imaginary relationships with women he spots on the train, but even they go south in his mind. He works in New York City, and when lunch time arrives, he doesn't eat. He waits until the lunch rush is over, so he can enjoy food, shopping, a walk to clear his head, or ogling women. One day, an ex-girlfriend of an old friend named, I kid you not, Nikki Tru (Kerry Washington) arrives at his office, looking for a letter of reference. He happily complies, and soon, she is visiting him on a regular basis. The two go out on his late lunches often, and he is caught up in a major dilemma: Go about his regular, workaday boredom, or tempt fate and give in to temptation.
Going off of Rock's theory, all marriages would be happy ones as long as the participants have sex on a regular basis. "The most dangerous part of a marriage," Richard ponders in his running narration, "is when a couple accepts they don't have sex." It's a simplistic proposal—one that needs little dissection—and it's a simplicity that runs through the entire movie. The bigger problem lies with Richard, whose fantasies, seemingly harmless as they may be, and problems in his marriage are probably more the result of being bored with life as opposed to not having sex. It's not as though he and his wife are trapped together. There's a scene where they go out for dinner and conversation with friends, and by all appearances, it's a healthy thing he and Brenda have going. No, though, Richard's obsessed with sex. He imagines himself being single again and cutting immediately to the chase with women he meets (who all, of course, jump at the opportunity to have sex with him), and he sums up being single as being alone—the reason he got married, he says. Nikki is the allure of danger. When she takes him to an auto show, they look at the sports cars; when he and his wife go, they look at the minivans ("like going to a strip club and looking at the DJ").
There are some deeper issues here—issues the movie flat-out avoids, opting instead for easy and misfired jokes. Two pretty pitifully familiar ones stand out. Richard takes a dose of Viagra after a date with Brenda, thinking he's finally going to seal the deal. Unfortunately, she falls asleep (big surprise), and when she awakens hours later to find her husband still nursing an erection, she calls the paramedics, who do what they need to in order to, uh, deflate the situation. Later, Richard tries to buy condoms, and, guess what, the clerk doesn't hear him properly, causing her to scream out his order to the entire store. Those are at least out of line with the rest of the movie, but there's also a scene where Richard helps Nikki clear out her belongings from an ex's apartment, only to have him arrive and get into a fight. All of these scenes point to the movie's biggest problem in handling the material; it tries to overdo itself. How else can you explain the finale, in which Richard and the woman he chooses in the end sing out their problems? At least the movie has the presence of Steve Buscemi, who plays Richard's philandering co-worker at the bank and gives him reasonable advice.
The been-there, done-that warnings serve as a sort of bolt of reality in what is essentially an overblown but underdone exploration of marital infidelity. If it had been a funny overblown but underdone exploration of marital infidelity, that would an entirely different thing.
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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