To cheat or not to cheat: That's the question at the heart of Chris Rock's remake of Eric Rohmer's classic 1972 romantic comedy CHLOE IN THE AFTERNOON, a perfectly good idea gone terribly wrong.
After two kids and seven years of increasingly sexless marriage to Brenda (Gina Torres), successful Manhattan investment banker Richard Cooper (Rock) has begun to feel that proverbial itch. Unable to resist fantasizing about the women he sees each morning on his commute from the wealthy Westchester suburbs to his office in midtown Manhattan, Richard begins wondering what his life would be like if he hadn't married Brenda. Would he be as bored with another woman? Would he be happier? Would he be having sex? While he can't understand how a shameless philanderer like colleague George (Steve Buscemi) can cheat on a wife he claims to love, Richard's own marital commitment is tested when Nikki Tru (Kerry Washington), a stunning face from his prenuptial past, shows up unannounced. Once the girlfriend of Richard's best friend (Orlando Bloom), Nikki remains a freewheeling, club-going gal-about-town. Teasing him about his typical white-collar existence, what she suspects is a boring marriage, and the fact that he's no longer the "Richie" she once knew, Nikki asks him for a reference for a new job one of many small favors that keep Nikki returning to Richard's office. Never one to take lunch at the usual hour, Richard agrees to meet Nikki outside work for a series of reckless, but still platonic, late-afternoon rendezvous that raise eyebrows around the workplace, jeopardizing his job while edging Richard ever closer to the possibility of cheating.
Forgetting that French New Wave directors often turned to Hollywood for inspiration, cinema snobs will doubtless be outraged that Hollywood would dare remake such a beloved Rohmer masterpiece, when in fact, tone aside, CHLOE IN THE AFTERNOON isn't all that different from THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH. The problem really isn't the concept, but the execution: Rock and cowriter Louis C.K. are both smart, insightful stand-up comedians who, rather than allowing quiet subtleties to sink in, naturally go for the big laugh every time. As a result, what's potentially most interesting about Rock's take on the material the life of a black banker, husband and father in an overwhelmingly white man's world is lost in a series of crude, mean-spirited scenarios that includes a stupid Viagra gag and ends with a lip-synched musical number that reeks of creative desperation. The sole bit of inspiration is the Rohmer-esque "Fin," and it's a welcome sight.
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