Chloe in the Afternoon, Eric Rohmer's much acclaimed 1972 film, will remain as a fine little pillar of the old story of a male character in infidelity and morality with living a life with a significant other, long after I Think I Love My Wife sits in the video stores and gets mass replays on TV. Chris Rock's film, as co-writer/director, is never one to really go down the path of dangerous contrivances or of the annoyances with the quirks in characterizations. This is mostly due to it being a comedy, and with Rock's own brand of sensibilities sort of filtering into this otherwise very straightforward examination of truth and desire in marriage, which is also very easy in some ways.
In fact, as one who may pay attention to Rock's stand-up, at least ten to fifteen minutes of material in the film- from the line near the start "married and bored out of my f***ing mind", to the scene where the married couples have finner- can be found in the 2004 stand-up special Never Scared. This isn't a bad thing, though, and there's even a hilarious wink to moments that come unexpected, either from past Rock bits like the table-dance song in the club or the unfortunate, ecstatically tasteless scene in the ambulance van.
But more than anything it's Rock, as star and filmmaker, an attempt at making a vehicle that knows it's being a little silly at times, and still reaching truths that are worthwhile. The joist of the plot concerns Richard Coopper, Rock, as an investment banker in New York city, married with two kids and quite successful, tempted by the suddenness of Niki Tru (Kerry Washington, almost a 180 of the bland 'good girl' type of woman in Ray), who as Steve Buscemi's character describes to Richard: "she's f***ing you, you just don't know it." At the core of the film there is some momentum in the fact that Richard doesn't go on to cheat, even as one might think this is the 'safe' route.
There is more of a safe turn that happens, which is to be sort of expected, where Richard has a change of mind after letting go of the temptation, and this part loses its credibility in relation to the rest of the picture. But this isn't too much of a hindrance, so much of there being something small, though noticeable, that is even less credible. It reminds one of a similar problem in the Last Kiss, last year's similar romantic-morality tale of tranquility broken by another woman, because on the two sides neither is entirely satisfying. Niki is a cold, tramp kind of girl who actually gets exposition even though, despite Washington's portrayal, is annoying, yet Gina Torres's Brenda, Richard's wife, doesn't get much put into her as a noticeable character, except as a slightly blasé, male portrayal of her being a good mother, yet disengaged in the sexual sense.
Yet there is some good that comes out of Rock's connections to both women that wasn't like the Last Kiss- he's able to garner a successful tone of balance between the drama and comedy, and to the degree that both are neither trying for anything great stay believable up to a point. Buscemi's character is one who's added for a slight change in tone, as at first the straight-laced friend for Richard, but then with his own special idiosyncrasies, really involving Viagra and his own complex with marriage. Meanwhile, Rock goes through his motions of faces in his performance, and it's almost too perfunctory, like his direction. It's definitely amiable and sympathetic, however, so it's not really anything that makes it a bad excursion as a date movie. There's some great songs mixed in, and a fantastic seduction scene towards the end, plus a possible tip of the hat to The 40 Year Old Virgin's end scene.
If you need a good date movie right now, this would surely be one that doesn't offend, and doesn't really make you call everyone you know to see it, but it is smart enough for what it's worth, as opposed to any other lot of romantic comedies where the characters are positively sociopaths. Most you'll find here is a jealous hoodlum who puts a stomping to Richard at one point (which is actually very, very funny, even as a loose end). Not a bad remake, but not one to be put on the same pedestal either.