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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

I Think I Love My Wife (review)

Wifely Duties

Single people aren’t allowed to offer commentary on marriage, goes a recurring joke in I Think I Love My Wife, even the couples’ therapist Chris Rock and his spouse see to deal with the problems in their marriage. On the other hand, Chris Rock’s buddy and office mate may offer advice — and what’s more, advice that turns out to be smart and prescient — because even though he’s a serial adulterer who nevertheless says he’s happily married, he is married. He’s one of the inmates at the asylum.
And maybe Chris Rock — who wrote and directed this flick, so I think it’s safe to attribute some of this attitude to him and not just to his fictional character — is right. Cuz I don’t get it. I’m not married, never have been, and don’t imagine the possibility is strong that I ever will be. Part of the real reason is that I cannot bear the idea of giving up and giving in that seems to characterize modern marriage, as represented both in reality and in pop culture… as in Wife: You find someone who’ll just about do and you get married quick before you end up a shriveled old lonely husk, and then you do everything you can to stay married, no matter how miserable you are or how much of a mistake you come to realize you’ve made, because god forbid you end up alone. Oh, and you’ll never have sex again.

Geez. And people think singles are pathetic. At least when I’m not having sex I don’t have to share the bed with someone I can’t stand to hear breathing.

So I am not the audience for this flick. I don’t need a tortured justification that the choices I made are the “right” ones no matter how unhappy I am about them. I don’t need the release of laughing at my own suffering. Cuz that’s what Wife is: a pat on the back, half consolation and half approval, for everyone who did what we’re “supposed” to do, and got married and consequently got miserable. Just one more example of Hollywood reinforcement of the status quo, cuz imagine the chaos if we all stopped doing what we’re “supposed” to do. It might be mass happiness instead of mass conformity.

The title says it all, with a kind of pathetic grandeur: Chris Rock (Madagascar, The Longest Yard) thinks he loves his wife. He’s not sure, but it could be the case. Rock’s investment banker Richard Cooper comes to this glorious realization only at the end of the film, after he’s been sorely and long tempted by seductress Nikki (Kerry Washington: The Dead Girl, The Last King of Scotland) into straying from his marriage vows. His wife, Brenda (Gina Torres: Serenity, The Matrix Revolutions), is gorgeous and smart and a great mother to their two young children, but she won’t wear lacy little panties and constantly turns him down when he wants sex. A few nods are given to the concept that both halves of this couple are at fault for the boredom in their relationship, but we don’t see him doing anything to drive them apart and drive him to turn to another woman for some attention: it’s all the wife’s fault. But the underlying misogyny of the film is only one of its problems.

Of course, men don’t come across too well, either. Nikki is a child, a wheedling manipulator in a push-up bra — she’s hot and she’s needy? what man could resist? That could have been comically sad, and yet for all that this is allegedly a comedy, we’re not even invited to laugh, even out of derision, at how easily maneuvered Richard is. It’s no newsflash that a beautiful woman can get away with whatever she can get away with, but there’s little insight or depth into what drives people of either gender to do what they do here, beyond the desperate desire to never, ever be alone.

But that’s the Hollywood way, too. In America, “I think” doesn’t mean “I ponder” — it means “I don’t know if…” Which is why Rock has taken Eric Rohmer’s classic 70s French film Chloe in the Afternoon and turned into a sitcom. This was his intent — Rock’s “irreverent” job here was to “transform this serious French story of human foibles and moral dilemmas into a far edgier American comedy” (or so the press notes for the film inform me). Rock’s idea of “edgy”? Jokes about boners, Viagra, and how nasty rap music scares white people.

Give yourself a pat on the back, half consolation and half approval, if you laugh at those bits because you think you’re supposed to.

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MPAA: rated R for pervasive language and some sexual content

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
  • maxwell horse

    Awesome review. I agree with what you said about marriage. People, more often than not, seem to get married out of desperation (so they don’t “look strange”) or because it’s simply “the thing to do.” For that matter, people spend their entire lives merely doing what they’re “supposed” to do, and nothing else, which is why we never seem to progress as a society and are so easily manipulated by the monkeys at the top.

  • This movie was complete bull shit. At the end Chris Rock is telling his wife it’s all his fault. What did he do? Looked like he was a good husband and father and provider. In this movie it is ALL the wife’s fault. She was a cold fish. She was an ignorant selfish cold fish. She was castrating her man by not having sex with him and showing him respect and emotional support. Any normal man would have strayed from that. Chris Rock was so desperate for love and attention and sex that he was willing to overlook Niki’s motives. Blame it on the man because he can’t control himself seems to be the theme of the movie. The part where he comes in at 4am in the morning and she lectures him showed that she is the one who wore the pants in the family. Perhaps the reason she showed no respect to him is she felt no love but we will never know because this movie never showed that part of the relationship. Too many gaps. At the end I have to admit that Nikkie chick looked quite tasty in her tag and ass black outfit. Almost too much for any man to resist, except of course Mr Super Man Chris Rock’s character.

  • bats

    This movie was entirely Chris Rock’s fault…not the character he plays, but him as the director and the guy who felt the need to make it in the first place. Bits and pieces of this are fine in a stand-up routine, but 90-120 minutes of it non-stop? Give it a rest, Chris.

    [Then again, I’m a firm believer that someonewho mopes around with the “oh, poor me, I’m such a martyr, such a scapegoat” mindset should be accommodated and put upon just as much as s/he wants.]

  • MaryAnn

    Frank N Stein, I believe that’s exactly what my review said.

  • Yolanda

    Please note that I didn’t do my research before seeing the movie so I had no idea about its premise. After the first few minutes I thought I’d be laughing out loud the entire time; however, as time went on I was doing the extreme opposite. The trouble started when Chris’s character allowed his friend’s x-girlfriend (Nikki) to lure him into secret rendezvous over and over again. He was a too naive in my opinion, but I guess that personality characteristic excused him from the reality that he was comtemplating cheating on his wife.
    I found the movie embarassing and offensive, but after taking more time to analyze it and placing it into context (Chris Rock comedy) it served its purpose. Chris gives it to us raw and uncut. I think he intended for us to feel uneasy about the current state of matrimony and how easy it is for infidelity to occur. …My Wife is from the male perspective. It’s always the woman’s fault (in both cases – Brenda’s and Nikk’s). Of course there were other nuances throughout the film and again, that’s Chris.

  • Yeah, this seems like a dumb movie. But I found MaryAnn’s comments on marriage to be a bit dated. (They might have been accurate in, say, 1959, but in 2007, an age in when almost everyone I know is either divorced, living with someone outside of wedlock, or acquainted with someone who is divorced or living with someone outside of wedlock, they seem a bit inaccurate.)

    Maybe I’m missing something, but one would think one of the worst problems in American society right now is more the growing number of people who would like to get married but can’t due to various legal and economic reasons than the number of Americans who stay married for the heck of it.

    But, hey, YMMV.

  • MaryAnn

    I can assure you, Tonio, that my views are marriage are supported by my own personal experience — not as a married person myself, but from the evidence of the marriages of people I know. 1959 has nothing to do with it. Yes, there are many divorced people… but look how many of them jump into marriage again (and again).

    You’re right, Tonio, that there are too many people who would like marry but cannot. In the book Singular Existence, author Leslie Talbot makes the very insightful observation that she believes part of the general resistence to allowing gays to marry may have something to do with the fact that these people really, really want to get married, and aren’t looking to get married simply because it’s something you’re supposed to do. That had not occurred to me before, but it has the ring of truth to it.

    I can tell you that the only wedding I ever attended that actually made me cry was one at which a gay friend of mine married his longtime boyfriend. (Alas, the wedding did not have the civil stamp of approval — it was purely a spiritual thing.) Their vows, which they wrote themselves, were forceful and genuine and believable. But I’ve been to plenty of hetero weddings where the entire proceedings felt artificial and scripted and entirely phony. In fact, I think that could be said about *every* hetero wedding I’ve been to.

  • Pedro

    wha..? you’re not married? but in other reviews you mention your husband… :S ????

  • MaryAnn

    Um, what?

  • Pedro

    i think i remember you mentioning your husband in a couple of previous reviews. now you say you’re not married.

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