I Think I Love My Wife
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Written by, directed by, and starring Chris Rock, this seems like an unlikely remake of Eric Rohmer’s 1972 film “Chloe in the Afternoon,” but the two films’ shared themes of mid-marriage crisis, infidelity, and your partner’s waning libido translate well from the ennui-laden French moral fable to the modern-day hyperactive American romantic comedy. Rock has attempted to translate his own comedic work into a somewhat serious and honest romance about a man torn between being faithful to his wife, and having a fling with an old flame. The result is hit-and-miss, and even looks a little amateurish from time to time (Rock seems to have hired the same photographer he used in his maligned-but-none-the-less-low-budget-goof “Pootie Tang”), but “I think I Love My Wife” ends up as an amusing lark with enough substance to stick a little.
Rock plays Richard Cooper, a successful suit in a big firm. Gina Torres plays his wife, who is warm and loving toward the kids, but seems to have intentionally thrown away her lusts along the way. Kerry Washington plays Nikki Tru (how’s that for a name?) an old school chum of Richard’s who is all hips, lips and loose, easygoing fun. Nikki begins, out of the blue, to visit Richard at his office. Richard is stirred by her body and her life attitude. They begin lunching together, he does her favors (he drives her to an ex-boyfriends house at one point), she brings him new life (she likes to literally throw money out of windows, just to watch pedestrians scramble for it), he begins canceling meetings, etc. It’s not long before everyone in the office thinks he’s having an affair. They kind of are, too, although there’s no admission of love, and there’s no sex… yet. Even the office letch (Steve Buscemi, excellent) warns Richard away from Nikki. We all know that a simple fling wouldn’t be so simple with Richard, as guilt would destroy him and his marriage to a stable and loving woman.
As I said, the film is hit-or-miss. Too much time is given to Richard’s angst, Nikki often comes across as less vivacious and alluring than just overbearing and a little annoying, the pacing is clunky throughout. Even the dialogue is a little too forced in extended sequences, only coming truly alive when the characters are discussing things naturally, not related to the plot at all. Rock manages to work in, though, some very funny moments (a fantasy where he imagines single life again and how easy it would be to get laid is hysterical).
Another thing which is brought up, but not discussed in any capacity is the fact that Rock is the only black man at his firm. He’s also the only black man at his kids’ playgroups. He’s also, seemingly, the only black man in the film. Richard and his wife have to spell the word “black” in front of his kids at one point, and he is admonished for using the n-word at all. It’s an interesting and subtle race study, but one that is frustratingly only mentioned in passing; the filmmakers bring it up enough to make the audience think that there will be more done with it, but then abandon it to show more lusty shenanigans. I understand that being an upper-class black man working in a mostly white company won’t be on your mind 24/7, but it could have been handled better in the film.
The film ends in song, which is strange, but preferable to long ranting confessions, admonitions, promises, or whatever else the plot would need to resolve itself.
“I Think I Love My Wife” is good fun, and a good step in Rock’s filmmaking career, but a clunky trifle. I’m glad I got to see it for free.