I Think I Love My Wife
Chris Rock is a hilarious, observant wit. His stand-up routines, even at the restrictive Oscars, are like a modern day, hip, Jonathan Swift. Movies, unfortunately, have been less amenable to Rock's talents. He's done fine in other people's movies, like Dogma and Lethal Weapon 4. But his vehicles have a hard time fitting his best material. With I Think I Love My Wife, finally a film melds with Rock's stand-up.
Movie Review: I Think I Love My Wife
Narrating the film with speeches about his various views on relationships, Rock plays a family man married to a woman (Gina Torres) who has stopped sleeping with him. She takes care of everything, and hasn't done anything wrong, but it makes temptation harder to resist. When an old friend (Kerry Washington) shows up to his office and starts getting him involved with her chaotic life, he faces the ultimate temptation.
First of all, let me explain my bias. I believe that sex is part of the marriage vow. To stop having sex is breaking the vow. I'm not justifying adultery. I abhor cheaters. But if one party refuses to partake in a normal adult love life, save for life threatening or psychological exceptions, that is as much of a betrayal. And there's no terminal illness or sexual abuse in this film. It's just bored married people.
So, if there were supposed to be any moral ambiguity in the film, I didn't see it. I was right with Rock's character. You think you can deny sex and keep a man around whenever you want? That's not quid pro quo. That's not reality. Sure, you'd like to be able to do whatever you want. But I'd like to get hired by the New York Times just because I'm a journalist, but I'm gonna have to work for that. It works for the movie though. He could go either way and it would still be an interesting, understandable exploration of the decision.
But what's really interesting about this movie isn't the "will he or won't he" plot. That's pretty simple. He gets tempted, the wife does some more unattractive but not evil things that push him further, the hottie entices him more and more. That's standard. What are brilliant about I Think I Love My Wife are all the brief interludes about real relationship issues, things people should be talking about but don't.
The fantasy of single life turning into the reality is brilliant. The predictably banal conversations married couples have may vary from group to group, but that's real. Ultimately thinking angry thoughts about every woman you see is also a natural byproduct of everyday marital stress. These may be 30 seconds tops, but peppered throughout the film, they are the meat of the story. Everything else that happens is kind of going through the motions, albeit in funny and interesting ways (dollar dropping is a fascinating social exercise), but these snippets are the standup coming out.
I do think Torres's character should have been more sympathetic. Ultimately, we are supposed to root for him to stay faithful, but all we ever see her do is be a bitch. Not a royal, ugly bitch, but never loving like somebody you could maybe understand why she has issues. She's always telling him how to do things or demanding he do something else. Even her "supportive" comments are totally condescending. Jesus, at least support him on SOMETHING.
I never really thought about Kerry Washington before, but WOW, she is unbelievably hot. Of course they tart her up in skimpy dresses but you've still got to have the sensuality for it. She can be frustrating, as a sort of flaky, self-destructive chick that definitely exists in real life, but even worse is Rock's character getting sucked into it. At a certain point, forget about the marriage, why would he jeopardize his job for her? But he's confused and what guy hasn't been a ridiculous chauffeur/butler/lackey to a hot girl?
I would say this is Chris Rock's best movie but that isn't even saying much. It is an important and hilarious exploration of just what is wrong with marriage these days. In its best moments, it harkens back to Woody Allen's glory days, and even its most simplistic scenes are pretty funny.