I Think I Love My Wife


I’ll be the first to admit that Chris Rock is not my cup of tea when it comes to stand up comics. He’s smart and he is funny, but there is something in his delivery and demeanor that I find off-putting for some reason. Needless to say, a new Chris Rock movie is not high on my list of “must see” pictures. Imagine my surprise when I found both his acting and directing to be among the best parts of this intelligent but deeply flawed comedy.

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Despite able and attractive actors in the lead roles, I Think I Love My Wife is hampered by a sitcom story that’s simply too thin to support a feature-length film. After establishing its players and their situation, it spends the middle parts of the film running them in circles until the end.

Rock plays Richard Cooper, a New York investment banker who is (mostly) happily married to school teacher Brenda (Firefly’s Gina Torres). They have all the outward appearance of affluence, comfort and wealth. The only problem is that Brenda has lost any interest in sex. This leaves an increasingly frustrated Richard with a sex life that consists mostly of fantasies about random women on the street. Marriage therapy doesn’t work because he finds it hard to take seriously a therapist who is A) single and B) childless.


Despite his wandering eye, it’s clear that Richard would never actually cheat on his wife. He’s just too comfortable in his life to consider it. Then he encounters Nikki (Kerry Washington), the ex-girlfriend of an old buddy from Richard’s younger, wilder days and it’s clear that she is still living the single life for which Richard’s sexless marriage has filled him with nostalgia. It quickly becomes clear that Nikki is determined to jolt him out of his comfortable middle-class existence and perhaps right into her bed.

The best aspect of this movie is that it avoids the obvious sex comedy clichés. Unlike other movies, this movie does not view the protagonist’s marriage as a trap but as a haven. Aside from her lack of interest in sex, Brenda is not a shrew, a harpy or a nag but a loving wife and a good mother. This does, however, rob the film of any suspense over the outcome. He would have to be a complete bastard to cheat on a woman like this, which would be completely out of character with how Richard has been established for the rest of the movie.

For his part, Rock dials back his usual trademark smirk and high-decibel delivery, making a convincing husband and father. It no longer possible to dismiss this guy as a one-note stand-up comic.

Another neat twist is in the character of Richard’s best friend George (a surprisingly clean-cut Steve Buscemi). He’s a serial philanderer but also a source of sage marriage advice, recognizing that Richard isn’t the kind of guy who can cheat on his wife and not ruin his whole existence.

The Nikki character could also have been a shallow sexpot but she’s allowed to be a vulnerable human who thinks she’s really helping Richard break out of his humdrum existence. Despite being about a man who can’t get any, this movie treats its women with surprising dignity.

Aside from the skimpiness of the plot, I Think I Love My Wife also suffers from some directorial flourishes that Rock is not accomplished enough a stylist a pull off. I’m referring especially to a couple scenes of breaking the fourth wall seem to belong to a different movie. There is also a slapstick gag involving Richard’s adverse reaction to a Viagra pill that plays like it was rescued from the bottom of a sitcom slush pile.

Finally, the film ends with characters breaking spontaneously into song, but without the over-the-top sense of fun found in The Forty-Year-Old Virgin’s Bollywood musical number.

But mostly, the problem with this movie is the lack of meat on its bones. It is based on Eric Rohmer’s Chloe in the Afternoon but I suspect that the 1972 French film wasn’t anywhere near this lightweight. His version is admirable for its attitude toward marriage and family, but Rock should have leaned a little harder on the source material.

1 thought on “I Think I Love My Wife

  1. matt

    I never really planned to watch this movie and I probably won’t get around to seeing it anytime soon. Still, I’m happy to see Chris Rock showing he can expand beyond “Tossed Salad Man.” (Though I really like “Tossed Salad Man.” Do a google search if you’ve never heard it.)


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