“Oh baby, you, you got what I need,” they warble, creeping closer to one another. “But you say he's just a friend.”
As Biz Markie would say: “Don't gimme that.”
Fact is, married man Richard (Rock) wants to be more than “just a friend” to serially single Nikki (Washington) but recognizes that scratching his seven-year itch would be the undoing of his happy — if passionless — home life with the brainy and beautiful Brenda (Torres).
“You're not in love,” Nikki argues. “You're in loyal.”
A funny man who's also a family man, Rock here has created comedy out of the miseries of marriage by — no joke — remaking Eric Rohmer's 1972 Chloe in the Afternoon. Anything but a sophomore slump, Rock's second stint as writer/director/producer results in a sophisticated look at the tedium of an old marriage and the temptation of a new love that marks a maturing of his humor without any attendant dulling of his cutting-edge causticity. (Start taking notes, Eddie Murphy.)
Take, for instance, Brenda's comic copulation cop-outs, which include one-liners like “No, my face hurts” and “It's not your birthday.” No wonder Richard informs viewers via voiceover, “I'm bored out of my f---ing mind.”
Excitement arrives in the form — and what a form it is! — of Nikki, the old flame of a former friend who shows up unannounced at Richard's investment banking firm to ask for a reference. After she gets the job, their celebratory lunch begins a will-they-or-won't-they scenario with real tension because it's clear these characters could actually be happy together. In many ways, the free-spirited Nikki seems to understand Richard's desires better than the settled-down Brenda — taking him, for instance, to look at sleek sports cars at an auto show. When husband and wife return together, Brenda only has eyes for the minivans.
Going to an auto show and looking at the minivans, Richard observes, is like going to a strip club and staring at the DJ. But, considering the costs, can he justify choosing the convertible over the minivan?
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Cast: Chris Rock, Kerry Washington, Gina Torres, Steve Buscemi and Edward Herrmann
Director: Chris Rock
Screenwriters: Chris Rock & Louis C.K.
Producers: Chris Rock and Lisa Stewart
Rating: R for pervasive language and some sexual content
Running Time: 94 min.
Release Date: March 16, 2007